Saskatoon lawmakers have lightened taxes for some affordable housing developments.
On Monday city council approved a motion to provide tax abatements for affordable housing units at four building sites in the city for five years.
Alan Wallace, a municipal housing specialist with the National Affordable Housing Corporation (NAHC) and a former Saskatoon city planner, said the measure filled an important policy gap.
“We shouldn’t have… exclusively high-income areas and exclusively low-income areas,” he said.
“We all live in a city together.”
The motion lists the mixed-market projects that the NAHC, Petrichor Developments, the Central Urban Métis Federation Inc. and K.C. Charities, Inc. are building.
Mixed-market developments are building sites that include both affordable units and those available at market price.
Saskatoon defines a unit to be affordable if the rent charged is less than 30 per cent of the tenant’s income.
The pro-rated five-year tax abatement, which applies only to the affordable units, means the city foregoes around $200,000 in tax collection.
In December Wallace sent a letter — cosigned by other builders — to city hall, urging the councillors to adopt the motion, which the city administration recommended.
The letter highlighted a growing need for “more good quality affordable rental housing units in good locations.”
He told Global News vacancy rates in Saskatoon for good quality rental properties — and especially those big enough for large families — are low.
Wallace said the motion will help spread out the affordable housing — and the families who need it — across the city
Speaking over Zoom, he told Global News lower-income areas typically have fewer amenities, like schools, shopping and community facilities.
“Everybody should benefit from those kinds of public investments, not just people who can afford to live in those neighborhoods,” he said.
Wallace says enabling lower income families to live in newly built neighbourhoods is a measure of equity and removes stigma around having less means.