Chambers Seeks Developer Tax Break Tied to Sewage Capacity Upgrades



New tax relief may be on the verge of reimbursing Winnipeg developers whose projects may otherwise be cut or stalled due to limited sewer capacity.

Com. Markus Chambers is asking the city to explore options to compensate developers of large-scale multi-family structures when they pay for sewer upgrades instead of delaying or scaling back projects to accommodate aging or inadequate infrastructure.

The Saint-Norbert-Seine River councilor said a few projects have now been delayed or scaled back in his neighborhood, after developers learned plans would exceed existing sewer capacity in the area. He said paying for upgrades, without compensation from the city, could cost companies tens (or hundreds) of thousands of dollars.

“Developers say, ‘I can’t add that cost for something I don’t own’, so they leave their property vacant…and that impacts our ability to create jobs, build housing (which is ) so desperately needed,” Chambers said Wednesday.

The motion does not dictate a specific form of tax relief. Chambers suggests the City of Winnipeg could waive a portion of annual property taxes over a 10-year period to compensate developers who improve sewer capacity to support specific large housing projects.

“After 10 years, the city comes away with brand new infrastructure, housing, and then starts collecting the whole (of the tax bill),” he said.

Chambers said he thinks the tax relief will help the city increase housing density for infill projects that might otherwise be limited by sewer capacity.

“It’s a great example of where we can work collaboratively and get new infrastructure and not stagnate development.”

Tom Peake said the change would help him move forward with a new housing plan, which he said would add an 85-suite or 34-condo building to St. Norbert.

He discussed with the city ideas for developing his 1.9-acre property on Grandmont Boulevard (near its intersection with the Pembina Expressway) for nearly two years. He has yet to complete a formal proposal for the project after learning that the city’s existing sewer capacity would not support either option.

“I have a site that I can’t do anything with…I can’t make (detailed) plans and there’s no point in hiring an architect until I know they can provide a service of sewer,” said Peake, president and owner of X Hale Corporation Inc.

He expects the tax relief described by Chambers to be enough to move his project forward and help attract further development. “If they reimburse me over 10 years, I will finance it. It is quite logical.

If such a deferral motion is successful, Peake expects the city will still benefit greatly from the taxpayer dollars generated by the new multi-family projects. In his case, he expects his property taxes to go from $22,000 a year (for the vacant lot) to between $150,000 and $180,000 once construction is complete.

At a community committee meeting in Riel on Tuesday, a representative from End Homelessness Winnipeg also backed the motion — hoping the changes would help entice developers to build more housing, including affordable housing.

“We’re glad to see the city creatively considering the tools … that can really facilitate the development of new affordable rental housing in our city,” said Lissie Rappaport, housing supply manager.

Rappaport said developers told End Homelessness that old infrastructure, including sewer lines, sometimes caused them to produce fewer housing units to avoid costly upgrades.

“When they have to put these big investments into redevelopment of these lots…it just becomes impossible for them to complete these developments. So they will often abandon their plans to build a triplex or quadruplex and just convert (the land) into one detached house,” she said.

The Riel Committee approved the request for a report on potential tax changes. It then requires a vote at the property and development committee of the board.

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Twitter: @joyanne_pursaga

Joyanne Pursaga

Joyanne Pursaga
Journalist

Born and raised in Winnipeg, Joyanne loves telling the stories of this city, especially when it comes to politics. Joyanne became a reporter at City Hall for the Winnipeg Free Press in early 2020.

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