Lethbridge City Council on Tuesday voted 8-1 to combine all funding provided from three independent urban core incentive program allocations into one fund. As part of the streamlining, Council also approved an additional $2 million from the Municipal Revenue Stabilization Reserve (MRSR) towards the urban core incentive programs.
The individual programs had not been experiencing equal demand, however the Urban Core Property Improvement Grant in particular has seen very high demand. Combining funding and adding funding will now support in-demand projects much sooner. Despite a requirement for 2:1 matching, the program is demonstrating that the estimated rate of return on the grant funding has been 13:1 with a stimulated construction value of nearly $7.5 million. Interest remains high, with daily inquiries and a queue of six potential projects that could be approved now that funding is available.
"The Urban Core Property Improvement Program has been a success," says Andrew Malcolm, Urban Revitalization Manager. "It has been well received by the development and investment community and is turning out some great redevelopment projects. Having this additional funding available will ensure the program continues to meet demand and support economic recovery along with urban core revitalization outcomes."
During the COVID-19 pandemic and economic slowdown, there has been significant development and reinvestment into the core commercial districts – largely being attributed to the incentives available. This supports broader community outcomes of vibrant central neighbourhoods, local economy due to construction-related jobs and the creation of safe and useable buildings, as well as expanding the assessment base positively impacting future taxes.
The combined funding for all urban core incentive programs into one fund frees up $561,759.87 that remains in the Urban Core Housing program, which is experiencing much less demand. It is anticipated that the $2 million allocation will see the program to the end of 2022, at which time its future could be considered as part of the next Operating Budget.