Tax Increment Financing: is the City sTIFfing Ottawa taxpayers?

Tax increment financing (TIF) is an incentive mechanism used by municipalities to encourage property (re)development, usually within designated areas. In Ontario, TIF involves city funds being made available, in the form of annual grants to the property owner, on a site-specific basis to assist in remediation and/or redevelopment. The grant amount is a percentage of the increase in property taxes resulting from the redevelopment over the original or base tax level (before redevelopment). These tax increment-based grants, also called Tax Incentive Equivalent Grant (TIEG), use authority established under the Community Improvement Plan provisions under Section 28 of the Planning Act. The TIEG is calculated annually over the life of the agreement (e.g. 10 years). The property owner then pays 100% of the property taxes owing. Continue reading

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The Orleans Community Improvement Plan needs a major overhaul.

Ottawa City Council approved the Orleans Community Improvement Plan (CIP) in 2013. The main goal of this initiative is to attract major knowledge-based employers which would result in a significant improvement in the job-to-household ratio in Orleans so that residents have an opportunity to live and work in the same community.  This has been a long-standing issue in the eastern suburb which has experienced limited employment growth compared to the rest of the City or other suburbs like Kanata. The issue is frequently raised in virtually every recent election held in the community – federal, provincial or municipal. Continue reading

Free Lunch versus Free Market: Did Ottawa Taxpayers Subsidize Downtown Condo Builders?

I read a recent article written by Joanne Chianello, a journalist at CBC Ottawa, about the City of Ottawa’s Brownfield’s policy. This policy, which was approved by City Council in 2007, provides grants to developers to encourage the redevelopment of contaminated lands. Her article points out that City Council has approved over $70 million in brownfields grant since 2007. The article further questioned the public benefits resulting from such grants and the absence of any assessment to see if the policy was actually stimulating investment which would not otherwise occur. Continue reading

The Economics of Illusion: The Salvation Army’s Proposed Social Services Complex in Vanier

The Salvation Army recently hired Shore-Tanner and Associates to study the potential economic impacts of a $53 million social services complex/community hub on Vanier (see Ottawa Citizen article). The complex will provide 350 beds including 140 for an emergency shelter, an upgraded Thrift Shop, and space for the provision of a wide range of social services. According to the Ottawa Citizen article, the Shore-Tanner report predicts “there would be 137 new full-time jobs in agriculture, professional services, trades, utilities and property maintenance that would be open to Vanier residents. Another 275 full-time jobs could be created in other related areas and there would be demand for a new 7,000-square-foot retail and service space near the Salvation Army complex.” Continue reading

Rethinking Economic Development Strategy For Eastern Ontario, Again

Over the last 50 years or so, there has been an ongoing effort on the part of the federal and provincial governments directed towards regional economic development in Eastern Ontario. For example, the Province of Ontario embarked on a decentralization approach to regional development during the mid-1960s, known as Design for Development, to deal with the negative consequences associated with the extremely rapid growth of the Toronto region and with the impacts of such concentrated growth may have in other regions of the province. The Ontario Development Corporation was established during this period to provide funding and financial incentives for manufacturing in slower growth areas like Eastern Ontario. Continue reading

Beyond Likes and Followers – Social Media and Local Economic Development

Social media has quickly emerged as a dominant mode of communications and interaction in today’s society whether it be in current events, political elections, entertainment news, open government and a slew of other subjects. Over the last ten years, local economic development agencies have increasingly turned to social media as a means for branding and marketing their communities, assisting in site selections or location decisions, forging networks with local businesses and establish direct contacts with business decision makers. Continue reading