Changes to Hamilton’s various Tax incentive programs will hopefully prevent developers from engaging in renovictions. City staff presented a massive report suggesting some tweaks to the system of grants that apply to Hamilton’s downtown Downtown but also apply to a number of Business Improvement areas and to the downtowns of the former communities that were amalgamated into Hamilton.
Some of the changes include:
- Modifying the grant amounts provided under the Hamilton Tax Increment Grant Program to provide a greater financial incentive to incorporate housing affordability and/or environmental sustainability and climate change measures into developments.
- Expansion of an existing Housing Improvement/Creation Loan Program to support the development of laneway housing units
- Updates to the Commercial Property Improvement Grant Program to permit environmentally and climate focused exterior building/property improvements;
- Increasing flexibility respecting the location of new permanent outdoor patios/decks
- Expanding the scope of the Office Attraction Program to include new incentives.
As a result of council feedback this year staff have amended the language in the tax increment grant program to specifically exclude projects where tenants are being evicted. The language of the program was also altered to give council more flexibility to turn down specific projects without incurring legal liability. This was an apparent response to a General Issues Committee decision to deny a tax grant to Malleum Properties over their project at 540 King Street East, where tenant advocates had complained that tenants were forced out of the complex. At the subsequent council meeting the decision was reversed, after an in-camera huddle with staff and legal counsel.
Staff also promised to look at the possible outright cancellation of some of the incentive programs as a result of the approval of the LRT project. Councillor Lloyd Ferguson had earlier argued that the tax incentive grants which were intended to encourage development and redevelopment, were no longer needed once the LRT project gets underway. Many of these programs date back decades to a time when Hamilton downtown was in desperate need of revitalization, and commercial lenders were unwilling to advance funds for projects in the area.