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Ouellette Promises New Revenue For City By Taxing Surface and Empty Lots

Mayoral Candidate Robert Falcon Ouellette proposes the redevelopment of empty lots and downtown surface parking in Winnipeg.

Winnipeg Mayoral candidate Robert Falcon Ouellette announced in a press release on Thursday that he encourages the redevelopment of empty lots and downtown surface parking with new assessment guidelines.

Empty lots and downtown surface parking have become barriers to growth and safety in the city. Too often, older buildings get torn down to avoid needed repairs and replaced by grass, gravel or asphalt. These lots can sit stagnant and underdeveloped for years, costing the city much-needed tax revenue while creating economic dead zones and safety concerns for neighbours.  

Because they are already close to and supplied by existing city services, these lots provide an excellent redevelopment opportunity for the city.  

“These lots are a constant reminder that we need to do better. And we can. It’s time to be creative and realize the full potential for the benefit of all Winnipeggers.

As Mayor, to encourage redevelopment of these lots, I would work with council and the Assessment and Taxation department to implement new assessment guidelines, which would assess these lots as if buildings still stood there.” Ouellette said

Ouellette estimates that 20% of downtown real estate is devoted to surface parking, comprised of over 150 parking lots. 

Downtown surface parking lots account for approximately 172 acres or 7,492,320 sq/ft.2 If this number were to be assessed as a 4-storey building that would represent 29,941,401.6sq/f of potential mixed-use space. This number multiplied by current construction costs for commercial units ($250sq/f)3 at a mill rate of 13.468% times 65%4, would represent approximately $65,528,254.475 in new revenue. This was outlined in Ouellette’s press release.

In addition to downtown surface parking lots, new assessment guidelines would apply to vacant residential, commercial, and industrial lots of all zoning types. This would only apply to lots where there used to be a building. 

‘Not only will this encourage the redevelopment of these lots, which have sat stagnant and under-used for years, but it will also make speculators rethink before they tear down existing buildings, including our heritage buildings,’ said Ouellette. 

The full value of the new assessment guidelines would be phased in over 4 years. Upon implementation of the new assessment guidelines, properties with existing buildings that are torn down would be subject to the full value of the new assessment guidelines unless they are redeveloped or rezoned for alternative use. 

Ouellette said, “It is important that the new revenue is not dropped into the City’s big bucket of general tax revenue. This initiative is important to Winnipegers because the dollars raised could be earmarked and reinvested into important programs like redevelopment incentives that include green building practices, residential developments that include affordable housing, community-based safety initiatives as well as public transportation and active transportation.”

If successful, an initiative like this could improve the living standard for Winnipeggers and help the City economically.  

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