Land use queried

LOCAL real estate agent isn’t convinced a local social services agency proposal to build housing on city-owned land is the best use

A LOCAL real estate agent isn’t convinced a proposal from a local social services agency to build housing on city-owned land is the best use for the property.

Remax’s John Evans says the property on the corner of Kenney and Park in the Horseshoe could contain as many as 100 market rental units, significantly more than the 20 modular-style houses wanted by the Ksan House Society.

The resulting taxes from such a development would bring a larger benefit to the city than the Ksan project, which would feature a combination of units bringing in market rents and lower, income-based rents based on social services subsidy limits, said Evans.

“The increase in supply of apartments would  improve our vacancy rate thus providing more affordable housing and increasing the city’s tax base at the same time,” said Evans.

Evans bases his argument on the idea there are people now living in apartments and other rental accommodation who cannot find anywhere else to live but who can – and will – pay more rent than they are now paying if presented with an alternative.

“That would then free up the housing these people are living in now for others and that would address your affordability index,” said Evans.

And while the Ksan proposal hinges on leasing the land from the city, Evans would have the city sell it outright so that a developer absorbs all of the resulting risks.

And an outright sale of city land to a developer for market-priced housing wouldn’t result in any eventual cost to taxpayers, Evans continued.

“Having a policy [for city land] which requires a developer to offer a component of low cost housing is something people just don’t like,” Evans added.

The Ksan proposal of mixed market and lower rents, with the latter tied to a maximum allowed by social assistance, also says it could be accomplished without a subsidy.

But it would require a lot of volunteer labour and other in-kind contributions to lower construction and development costs, indicates a proposal by the society submitted to city council two weeks ago.

When it comes to the provision of affordable housing, the city says it doesn’t have a specific policy regarding the requirement of a set number of such units on land it would sell to a developer.

But it would negotiate the provision of low cost housing in some fashion as part of the sale of the land, says city planner David Block.

“This could be through actual housing units dedicated for a below market rental on the site or possibly a financial contribution to the city to put towards another housing project. There are many options that could be proposed and for council to consider when making a decision to sell or lease one of these parcels,” he said.

The society wants the city to lease either the Kenney and Park location or property on Haugland on the Southside very close to 50 units of subsidized housing it already manages.

The latter however, isn’t favoured by at least one city councillor.

Stacey Tyers says there would be a risk of ghettoization from having a large amount of subsidized housing in the same area.

The city has three properties on which it would negotiate some form of affordable housing if they were sold for housing.

Aside from the parcel on the corner of Kenney and Park and the one on Haugland on the Southside, the city has another potential housing site on Olson in the Horseshoe.