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Proposed changes to Whitehorse building incentives would benefit non-profits, say planners

Whitehorse city planners say proposed changes to the city's housing incentive program would help make building in the city affordable for non-profits.

Since 2012, the housing incentive program has helped develop 342 units in the city

Whitehorse city planners want the city to end incentives for commercial developers and focus on building more multi-unit residential properties. (Vic Istchenko/CBC)

Whitehorse city planners want the city to eliminate building incentives for commercial developers, and focus on increasing the number of multi-unit homes, with new incentives for non-profit organizations. 

They say proposed changes to the city's housing incentive program would help make building in the city more affordable for non-profits.

The city created the incentive program in 2012 to help fill lots that were either vacant, underused and perhaps containing only a rundown shack, or being used for parking. Kinden Kosick, senior planner for the city, says since then, the program has helped develop 342 units in Whitehorse — from townhouse condos to commercial developments to rental units.

Kinden Kosick, middle, at a press briefing Tuesday. He says changes to the housing incentive program would include benefits catered specifically to non-profit organizations like Habitat for Humanity Yukon, which builds houses and makes them affordable for low-income families to own. (Mike Rudyk/CBC)

"We see certain types of housing getting built — for example, there's a lot of townhouses getting built in Whistle Bend and not too many apartments," Kosick said. "So this is trying to target different sectors of the housing market that we don't see being built."

Those who qualify for the incentive wouldn't have to pay certain municipal developer fees (which start at $2,185). If the project is rental or supportive housing, with at least four units, developers could also get a 10-year tax grant for up to $500,000. 

Non-profit groups like Habitat for Humanity Yukon, which builds houses and makes them affordable for low-income families to own, would have new benefits catered to them. These include a grant for developing costs for up to $20,000, as well as deferred payment for any lot purchased from the City of Whitehorse.

"The fact is that the city owns very little land," said Mike Gau, director of development services for the city. "It's the Yukon government that owns most of the vacant land in town, along with the First Nations, so they may choose to do different pricing on a lot of land. But the city's main tools are financial, zoning and planning."

The city's proposed changes need to be approved by council and city management.

Written by Alyssa Mosher based on an interview by Mike Rudyk

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