City hall moved one step closer this morning to quashing a controversial civic plan to offer $10,000 subsidies to buyers of new condominiums in the Exchange District.
The downtown development committee endorsed an administrative report that proposed using the condo subsidy funds – a total of $2.43 million – for streetscaping and safety initiatives in the Exchange.
Coun. Jenny Gerbasi said the public would not support the condo subsidy.
"There was a discomfort with that type of incentive," Gerbasi (Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry) said following the meeting. "The idea you’re putting money in the pocket of people who may already have money."
The condo subsidy and the streetscaping program are both elements of the $7.8-million Exchange-Waterfront Neighbourhood Development program, a comprehensive strategy designed to increase residential and retail density in the area.
The administration claimed the program would generate an additional $25 million in property taxes in 15 years.
But there was harsh public backlash in July when council overwhelmingly approved the strategy, most of it focused on the condo subsidy. Several councillors quickly distanced themselves from the concept and Mayor Sam Katz confirmed in December the subsidy would be quashed.
Funds set aside for the condo subsidy portion of the program will now be plowed into the streetscaping portion.
Because the strategy was approved by council, quashing the condo subsidy and redirecting those funds will need to be approved by council.
Coun. Brian Mayes, one of the original opponents to the condo subsidy and a member of the committee, said the city will make better use of the funds when spent on streetscaping projects.
Winston Yee, the city’s manager of housing development, said CentreVenture will administer the streetscaping program, which will include the construction of wider sidewalks, enhanced lighting, additional park benches.
"Things that will bring people into the area and have a lot more activity," Yee said.
Colin Craig, prairie director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, said the Waterfront program had enough money set aside for streetscaping projects, adding the $2.43 million from the condo subsidy component should have been spent on more worthwhile initiatives.