A new city and province three-year program will provide up to $20 million in incentives to spur further downtown residential development and affordable urban lifestyles to more Winnipeggers.
The program is being hailed as a significant step in revitalizing the city’s downtown, making it a more people-friendly place by increasing housing opportunities for all income levels.
Premier Greg Selinger and Mayor Sam Katz said the program will result in up to 800 new residential units in the downtown.
Stefano Grande, executive director of the Downtown BIZ, said housing is the most critical element in downtown mixed-use and compact development.
“Downtown Winnipeg has a lot to offer residents and we want to be sure that we are using the tools we have to encourage the growth and development of the downtown,” said Selinger.
He said the program will build on downtown redevelopment success by creating a flexible incentive for developers to create a variety of urban housing options for people of many different income levels.
“In order for our downtown to remain a vibrant choice destination, we need to ensure we are providing an attractive strong residential component that will keep feet on the street long after the storefronts close,” said Katz.
“More people downtown means a safer downtown, and with the commitment from the province … we are a step closer to increasing the capacity of the residential component that will allow those who want to live downtown a viable option.”
The Downtown Residential Development Grant Program is supported by the Community Revitalization Tax Increment Finance Act and will provide up to $20 million in incentives to developers over the next three years. Under the plan, developers will receive a grant that is equal to the incremental taxes on improved property for up to 15 years. Developers could be eligible for grants of up to $40,000 for each rental or condominium housing unit built or renovated in Winnipeg’s downtown.
The new program will build on the success of the city’s current Downtown Multi-family/Mixed-use Building Grant Program by expanding the grant to include all of the incremental tax generated by new development. It will target the maximum grants to new condominiums with assessed values of $250,000 or less, and to new apartments with rents at or below the average rent levels for Winnipeg.
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. Rents for the units will range
between $500 and $975 per month.
“We are pleased that this important revitalization tool is finally in place and look forward to the long-term benefits of increased residential development in the downtown,” said Ross McGowan, president and CEO of CentreVenture, the city’s arm’s-length agency charged with promoting downtown revitalization.
“An increase in downtown residential population is the single most important long-term strategy to creating a safer and even more vibrant downtown that will draw more commercial activity, making it the place to live, work, shop and play,” said Grande.
The new downtown residential program will be officially launched in May.