Mayoral candidate sets sights on surface parking lots
Read this article for free:
Already have an account? Log in here »
To continue reading, please subscribe:
Monthly Digital Subscription
$4.75 per week*
- Enjoy unlimited reading on winnipegfreepress.com
- Read the E-Edition, our digital replica newspaper
- Access News Break, our award-winning app
- Play interactive puzzles
*Billed as $19.00 plus GST every four weeks. Cancel anytime.
Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 18/08/2022 (283 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A Winnipeg mayoral hopeful would try to force owners of surface parking lots to pay the same tax rates as those whose lots have been developed.
Robert-Falcon Ouellette proposes to charge lot owners as though there is a four-storey commercial building on each of their properties, instead of just a parking lot, if he’s elected mayor.
“These surface parking lots have become a barrier to growth and safety in our city. Too often, older buildings have been torn down by land speculators to avoid needed repairs and to lower their property tax bills and then they’re replaced … (often) by gravel or asphalt. These lots sit stagnant and underdeveloped for years, costing the city much-needed tax revenue, while creating economic dead zones,” said Ouellette during a news conference on Thursday.
He said raising the tax bills would be a disincentive to leaving the land solely devoted to parking stalls. He estimates the city would raise about $65 million in new annual revenue through the change, though he could not pinpoint how much it would cost individual lot owners.
Ouellette said the lots are a significant problem, since they cover about 20 per cent of Winnipeg’s downtown. While the city has used the same number as recently as 2018, officials note that figure is based on an assessment conducted about 10 years ago.
Ouellette said the new revenue would be earmarked to support tax-increment financing incentives that attract desirable developments, such as green construction and residential builds with affordable housing, as well as safety initiatives, public transportation and active transportation.
When asked about the risk his pledge would decrease downtown parking options, Ouellette said there should still be ample supply.
“There are actually 62,000 parking spaces in the downtown core. I think, with COVID, there’s (also) an opportunity to rethink how we do public transportation, how we get people around (and make that option more desirable),” he said.
Replacing parking lots with buildings would also add “eyes on the street,” making many areas safer, said Ouellette.
The new assessment guidelines would be phased in over four years.
The pledge drew criticism, however, with some arguing the city couldn’t legally fulfil it.
In a news release, mayoral contender Rana Bokhari said such a change would “open the city to numerous lawsuits.”
“The City of Winnipeg Charter prohibits subjecting a property to a land value tax for something that is not on the land, and this would tie the city up in court for years. You cannot assess something that doesn’t exist,” said Bokhari, deeming a “straight-up parking tax” a simpler solution.
In an emailed statement, city spokesman Kalen Qually said provincial law does require the city to assess taxation value based on the present condition of each lot.
“The city takes into consideration the characteristics of a property, as they exist, when making an assessment of a property. Whether a property includes a building or stands as a vacant lot at the time of assessment is a characteristic that would be considered. Additionally, the assessed value of a property, which is used to calculate taxes, is required by legislation to be at market value as of a specific reference date,” wrote Qually.
When asked about the criticism, Ouellette said he believes the change may require an amendment to provincial assessment law, though he would work with anyone, including the Manitoba government, “to get the job done.”
Winnipeggers will elect their next mayor and council on Oct. 26.
Born and raised in Winnipeg, Joyanne loves to tell the stories of this city, especially when politics is involved. Joyanne became the city hall reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press in early 2020.
Updated on Thursday, August 18, 2022 4:42 PM CDT: headline missing word added