The Pulse: May 2, 2024

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  • 11°C: Mainly sunny. Wind becoming north 20 km/h near noon. High 11. UV index 4 or moderate. (forecast)
  • Blue/Purple: The High Level Bridge will be lit blue and purple for Light Up for Huntington Disease. (details)
  • 4-3: The Edmonton Oilers defeated the Los Angeles Kings on May 1 to advance to the second round of the NHL playoffs. (details)

A photo of a multifamily house construction site.

Bill 20 offers power to accelerate housing through property tax breaks

By Tim Querengesser

While Bill 20 has drawn heat for changes to local governance and elections in Alberta, it also contains measures that will for the first time allow municipalities to offer property-tax breaks or deferments for up to 15 years on all residential properties.

If the bill passes (which seems likely given the United Conservative Party's majority), municipalities will have the power to issue the kind of tax incentives on residential properties that they already can on non-residential properties, a measure intended to accelerate new and attainable housing, said Michael Francoeur, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Municipal Affairs.

"Multi-year residential tax incentives will only apply to municipal property taxes and can be tailored to suit the needs and goals of each municipality," Francoeur told Taproot in an email.

Industry advocates say the change could spark the development of new housing, make previously unviable housing types buildable, and push some stalled projects into gear.

"The impact of the policy spans from small to massive, contingent on the municipality's utilization (of it)," said Scott Fash, CEO of the BILD Alberta Association, in an email. "In urban hubs, it could catalyze transit-oriented housing and downtown revitalization, fostering construction of previously unviable units like three- and four-bedroom rentals."

Fash added that builder shortages are prevalent in smaller municipalities, and that potential tax breaks may be a "pivotal factor" for whether a project becomes feasible to build in these locations, as it could allow cutting the expense of paying property taxes over a three- to five-year construction period.

Exemptions and deferrals from paying property taxes are nothing new for municipalities, including the City of Edmonton. Under the current Municipal Government Act, property-tax exemptions are possible for schools, hospitals, nursing homes, religious properties, cemeteries, and in some cases seniors housing, provincially owned affordable housing, properties owned by the city, and properties owned or held by non-profits.

The proposed changes would not restrict municipalities on the types of residential properties (such as edge-of-city developments, often referred to as greenfield) or types of housing development that can be exempted or deferred, Francoeur said.

"This tool is flexible such that municipalities can choose to use it in any way they see fit to address the quantity and type of housing they are seeking to incent."

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Headlines: May 2, 2024

By Mariam Ibrahim

  • The Alberta government reversed its decision to cut its share of funding for low-income transit passes in Edmonton and Calgary following public backlash and discussions with the cities' mayors. It's "clear that the cities are not able to pay for their full programs at this time," Jason Nixon, Alberta's minister for seniors, community and social services, said in a statement. "As a result, Alberta's government will continue to extend this funding to the cities and work with them to ensure their low-income transit program continues to be funded in the future." About 25,000 people access Edmonton's Ride Transit program each month.
  • More than two dozen Black community leaders have signed a letter raising concerns that City of Edmonton administration is delaying the implementation of the Anti-Black Racism Action Plan, which city council approved last August. The plan, developed in response to racist attacks and systemic discrimination, includes 130 recommendations across various sectors but has seen limited progress, the letter says. In a statement, a spokesperson said that while the City is confident in the progress it has made so far, "this work is complex and generational and as such, it takes time to see the implementation of change."
  • Stony Plain Road businesses are preparing for another disruptive construction season as work continues on the Valley Line West LRT project. Stony Plain Road will be closed between 131 Street and 139 Street until the end of August to accommodate construction, affecting both vehicle and pedestrian traffic. While businesses understand the benefit of extending the LRT into west Edmonton, they grow frustrated when "construction isn't happening at a pace where we expect it to be," said Todd Janes, executive director of the Stony Plain Road Business Association. Coun. Andrew Knack says he will introduce a council motion in June to support businesses affected by multi-year construction projects. He has brought forward similar motions twice before, but both failed.
  • Joe Zatylny has resigned as Edmonton's fire chief effective May 10. Zatylny joined Edmonton Fire Rescue Services in 2020, leading it through the COVID-19 pandemic and the opioid crisis. David Lazenby will serve as acting fire chief while the City searches for Zatylny's permanent replacement.
  • The City of Edmonton released the agenda for the District Planning Public Hearing scheduled for May 28, where Edmontonians are invited to register and speak regarding the new District Policy and Plans. The hearing may extend over multiple days depending on the number of speakers.
  • Porter Airlines has added a new daily, roundtrip flight between Montreal and Edmonton. The flights are operated on the 132-seat Embraer E195-E2 aircraft, and include free WiFi on board. Porter also has existing flights that connect Edmonton to Toronto and Ottawa.
  • The Edmonton Police Service is asking the public for help in identifying a person of interest as part of the investigation into a suspicious fire that destroyed the historic Hangar 11 on April 22. "A significant piece of history was lost, and we would like to determine what happened," Det. Nigel Phillips said in a release.
  • The Edmonton Oilers secured a 4-3 victory against the Los Angeles Kings in Game 5 of their first-round NHL playoff series, winning the series 4-1. Leon Draisaitl made two goals and Evan Bouchard had three assists in the game at Rogers Place. It was the third consecutive year the Oilers eliminated the Kings from the opening round. Edmonton will now advance to the second round, where they will play the winner of the series between the Vancouver Canucks and Nashville Predators.
  • Edmonton Oilers superfan Tina Duncan has dedicated the basement of her Edmonton home to the team, creating a fan cave filled with items like seats from Northlands Coliseum, an Oilers themed carpet, and signed jerseys. Duncan, whose passion began in childhood, has been collecting Oilers memorabilia since high school.
  • The WNBA is returning to Canada with a pre-season game between the Los Angeles Sparks and Seattle Storm on May 4 at Rogers Place. The game makes Edmonton only the fourth non-US city to host a pre-season WNBA game. Edmonton was chosen because it's a "very rich sports town," said Phil Cook, the WNBA's chief marketing officer. The city also has basketball history dating back more than a century to the Edmonton Grads, a women's team founded in 1915.
  • Edmonton Oilers forward Zach Hyman joked that he's willing to give Shaquille O'Neal free skating lessons as the basketball legend participates in NHL on TNT broadcasts under the name "Shaq Hyman," a nickname Hyman earned while he played for the Toronto Marlies. "Never thought in my life people would be calling him 'Shaq Hyman,'" Hyman told reporters. "Pretty cool to share that nickname with him."
  • Ben Krikke, an Edmonton native and former NCAA DI basketball player, signed his first professional contract with the Edmonton Stingers, the team announced. He will debut with the Stingers in their home opener against the Saskatchewan Rattlers on June 2nd at the Edmonton EXPO Centre.
A title card that reads Taproot Edmonton Calendar:

Happenings: May 2, 2024

By Debbi Serafinchon

Here are some events happening today in the Edmonton area.

And here are some upcoming events to keep in mind:

Visit the beta version of the Taproot Edmonton Calendar for many more events in the Edmonton region.