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Council approves policies hoped to stimulate housing starts

And residential lot sales
Yorkton Council hopes incentives create housing interest. (File Photo)

YORKTON - The City of Yorkton is hoping to stimulate residential lot sales and housing starts by adopting two new policies. 

Michael Eger – Director of Planning, Building & Development, with the City explained that at an in-camera portion of the October 25, 2021 Council meeting, Administration “brought forward a report in response to Council priorities relating to residential lot sales,” at the regular meeting if Yorkton Council Monday. 

“Discussion was held around the City’s stagnant residential lot inventory and the lack of new home construction within the City.” 

It was at the time Administration was directed to create a “New Residential Construction Incentive Policy” that will grant the owner of a vacant residential lot, who is constructing either a new single-unit or two-unit residential dwelling, a 100 percent tax refund for a five-year period starting at the time of building occupancy, with the owner being able to choose between having annual taxes waived, or having annual payed-current taxes refunded by way of cheque payment, and further that application eligibility expire on December 31, 2022 to create a window for Administration and Council to re-evaluate the need for residential construction incentives,” explained Eger. 

“Ultimately, the premise of the incentive is to stimulate residential land sales and construction of one and two unit dwellings on both privately and publicly-owned properties.” 

The proposed incentive was then presented to the Economic Development Committee at their Dec. 16, 2021 meeting. 

“The Committee generally supported the premise of the policy, but also discussed extending abatement at the time of lot purchase, and given the lack of new home inventory, that the City should consider sales procedures that would support builders in their efforts to supply the market. Possible ways to achieve this would be to defer full payment to the City until the dwelling is sold and to allow builders to advertise on lots that they have agreed to purchase,” noted Eger. 

In order to carry out direction from Council and to address recommendations from the Economic Development Committee, it is proposed that Council adopt the newly created Residential Construction Incentive Policy and also approve revisions to the Residential Lot Sales Policy, he continued. 

“The new incentive policy is intended to be succinct, and automatically enters all new builds into the program. Tax refunds will stay with the property and will not require any agreements or cumbersome procedures for builders or buyers to navigate. To help stimulate the local construction, eligibility is restricted to site-built homes or ready-to-move (RTM) dwellings which are constructed within Yorkton or adjacent Rural Municipalities,” added Eger. 

The proposed changes to the sales policy allow for construction of spec homes, and also formalize sales practices which are used to ensure legislative compliance. 

“As it pertains to spec homes, the policy proposes to allow a contractor to secure building and advertising rights on a City lot with only a 10 percent deposit. Full payment to the City would not be required until the home is sold, or until two years after the deposit is made, whichever is sooner,” said Eger. “. . . There is risk to the City in proceeding this way, but by retaining title we would hold similar powers to a mortgager and could recover losses or claims through sale of the lot and any of its improvements.” 

Eger did note the cost of the incentive would be difficult to forecast – it will depend on whether the property is City or privately-owned, the assessed value of the property, and whether development would have occurred without subsidy within the five-year incentive time frame. 

“With the majority of vacant lots being City-owned and recent trends of both stagnated lot sales and new residential builds, it is not expected that the City will be foregoing significant tax revenues. As was discussed at the October 25th meeting, tax incentives are likely to be a less-costly alternative than lot price discounts while at the same time offering an equitable benefit that can be applied to both public and private land holdings,” he said. 

Council would be unanimous in adopting both policies.