There is a growing number of people who view Winnipeg’s downtown as the place-to-be, wanting to live in the area that possesses some of the city’s most popular attractions such as the MTS Centre, The Forks and the Canadian Museum for Human Rights that will open next year.
In recognition of the demand, the city and province for the second year in a row have committed $20-million in tax incentives to encourage developers to build housing in Winnipeg’s inner city.
Last year’s $20 million resulted in the construction of 135 rental units and 606 condominium units. Actually, the first year’s $20 million was supposed to last three years, but the program was so popular that the funds were quickly used up for 16 downtown projects proposed by developers.
There were 469 affordable units built or approved last year, which includes rental units ranging from $500 per month for a bachelor suite and $975 per month for a three-bedroom unit. Affordable condo units are described as valued at up to $150,000 for a bachelor unit and up to $250,000 for a three-bedroom unit.
Seventy-three of the units specifically targeted low-income families, while 57 units were designed for people with disabilities.
Developers received an average per unit tax incentive of $25,000 in 2010.
“The Downtown Winnipeg Residential Development Grant program is the most significant tool created to stimulate the sustained development of more affordable downtown housing that the downtown business community has seen in decades,” said Stefano Grande, executive director of the Downtown Winnipeg BIZ.
“By the city and province collaboratively working together to address the financial gap developers face in developing downtown housing, the downtown housing market will not only be strengthened, but affordable housing will be provided to many wanting to live downtown. This strategic investment is critical for the continued revitalization of our downtown.”
The infusion of another $20 million supports more downtown residential development and provides the option of an affordable urban lifestyle, said Housing and Community Development Minister Kerri Irvin-Ross.
“Downtown Winnipeg has a lot to offer residents and we want to continue to support successful initiatives like the Downtown Residential Development Grant program that help to revitalize the downtown,” added Irvin-Ross.
She said the program offers developers a flexible incentive to create a variety of housing options for people of different income levels.
“By continuing to provide an attractive strong residential incentive, we will keep feet on the street long after the storefronts close,” said Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz.
The Downtown Winnipeg Residential Development Grant Program was launched in April 2010 as a three-year program under the province’s Winnipeg Regeneration Strategy, cost-shared by the city and province.
Under the program, developers are provided a grant that is funded by the incremental property taxes on improved properties for up to 15 years. This program calculates a maximum project grant using up to $40,000 per unit to developers for each new rental or condominium unit in Winnipeg’s downtown.
A minimum of 10 per cent of the new housing units supported under this program will be for low-income individuals and families as well as people with disabilities.
“The program, along with the commitment from the province of Manitoba, the city of Winnipeg and private-sector developers will allow the Exchange District and surrounding areas to achieve the critical mass necessary to emerge as a full service, self-sufficient, urban neighborhood,” said Ross McGowan, president and CEO of CentreVenture Development Corporation.