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Kamloops council to expand tax exemptions for new rental builds

Developers have more land to choose from if they want to cut costs on new rental buildings in Kamloops.

The City is looking to expand a tax exemption program to span massive swaths of Kamloops in order to encourage development. Previously restricted largely to downtown and the Tranquille corridor, it will soon include most of the city's densest neighbourhoods.

Once approved, it would include the entire North Shore neighbourhood, downtown, Sagebrush and Lower Sahali with some smaller areas in Brock, Valleyview and Aberdeen.

"When we sit around this council table, we're making strategic long-term decisions on where we think our community needs to go," Coun. Mike O'Reilly said at an April 23 council meeting. "We're not making a decision to win votes tomorrow. This is not helping our tax rate this year or next year."

O'Reilly was a vocal supporter of the revitalization tax exemption, which he called a long-term investment in the city.

The exemption, which is already used in some of the city's core areas, allows developers to pay taxes on the assessed value of a property before being rebuilt. It lasts ten years.

The City is set to expand tax exemptions for new rentals across large swaths of Kamloops.
The City is set to expand tax exemptions for new rentals across large swaths of Kamloops.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/City of Kamloops

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The Sandman Hotel, for example, was built over a former parking lot. Its owner Northland Properties paid taxes for ten years on that property as if it were still a parking lot.

Staff predicted the city will forgo around $520,000 in revenue each year if developers take advantage of the expanded program, which O'Reilly said is worth the investment.

But he questioned why the expanded program was restricted to just rental buildings. Staff said it was simply because that was the focus of the conversation while the idea was discussed at an earlier council committee. Council didn't opt to add strata buildings into the bylaw on Tuesday, but it could still be added before it's approved at a later meeting.

The new bylaw is meant to address the city's housing shortage, something Kamloops is far from alone in. The province put Kamloops on its first ten-city naughty list last year, requiring the city make changes to get more housing built.

Mayor Reid Hamer-Jackson said he has spoken to property owners within the areas where the same tax exemption is already available. Some weren't even aware of the program and might consider selling to a developer if they knew.

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The mayor suggested the city send out newsletters to notify residents of the tax exemption available in their neighbourhood.

"Do you have any idea how many thousands of units would get mailed to and the cost implications of it?" O'Reilly said. "To go into it blindly, I don't know how anybody could support that without knowing the data."

Although it's common for the city to send newsletters for other programs or tax changes, no councillor agreed with the mayor as he was chided for suggesting staff send letters to homes in the exempt areas.

Hamer-Jackson was questioned about whether he consulted with staff before making his proposal or estimated the amount of homes that would get the letter. He hadn't, but proposed the communication to residents could eventually help spur new development.

His motion was voted down 8-1, but the tax exemption moved ahead with a final vote coming at a later meeting.

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