mi-plaza-regina

The City of Regina wants a busier downtown, including more people building homes downtown. (CBC)

The City of Regina says it's providing $619,000 in tax exemptions this year to boost affordable housing, and another $11,000 to encourage people to live downtown.

Details about the annual property tax subsidies were contained in a report tabled at City Hall on Thursday.

Most of the tax relief is for condos, rental units and houses in established neighbourhoods around the city. That includes what city officials call "modest, below-market" and accessible housing,

The remaining amount is tax breaks for people building new homes or renovating living spaces downtown. This year, it's only five properties, but the city wants to see much more building activity in future.

That could be good news for people like Dave Epeseth, who works downtown not far from where he lives.

"My girlfriend and I work downtown so we walk to work and don't own a car anymore," he said.

Since 1997, the city has offered tax breaks to people who build new homes in the area.

That means people won't pay any property tax for up to five years, up to 10 years if it's a renovated heritage property.

Converting old office buildings to condos entitles a developer to a tax break, too.

A relatively small number of people call downtown home right now, but the city hopes to grow that number to 5,000 within 20 years.

"The heart of the city, when it's strong and people want to live downtown, [with] shopping downtown and things to do downtown — it's really a testament to how healthy your city is," Mayor Michael Fougere said.

Fougere says the tax incentives are working, because there's more housing development downtown and more people living there.

Epeseth, meanwhile, said he doesn't need any extra incentive to live downtown.

He rents now, but a tax break might encourage him to buy something here.

"I'm already sold on downtown, so it would just be an extra incentive," he said.