The City of Moose Jaw plans to exit the housing rental business and sell its share of a joint condo corporation that houses Timothy Eaton Gardens and two businesses.
During the Nov. 22 executive committee meeting, city council voted 6-1 to complete a conditional purchase and sale agreement with Moose Jaw Non-Profit Housing Corporation for the municipality’s share of unit 1 for $1, commencing Jan. 1. The corporation will then take on the existing lease agreements with the tenants.
Coun. Heather Eby was opposed.
Council must approve this recommendation during a future regular council meeting for it to become official.
The agreement includes a five-year exemption from municipal taxes worth $40,000 annually that goes into effect in 2022. This exemption is subject to the Moose Jaw and District Senior Citizens Association remaining a tenant of the building, a council report explained.
The municipality owns unit 1 in a two-owner/two-unit condo corporation at 510 Main Street North, while Moose Jaw Non-Profit Housing Corporation (MJNPHC) owns unit 2.
The corporation owns 45.52 per cent of the property that houses low-income seniors’ apartments. The city owns a 54.48-per-cent share and leases all of unit 1 to the seniors’ association, Vision Travel and IG Wealth Management.
“This is an excellent opportunity to divest ourselves of a building that is becoming a liability. It is not part of our responsibility for rental (or to be in the property management business). It (the agreement) allows us to ensure that services carry on in that building because that’s the important part,” city manager Jim Puffalt said during the meeting.
The three main tenants will remain under the new agreement, while Moose Jaw Housing Authority will look after the building’s operations and maintenance, he added. Meanwhile, the city will not have to contribute any funding to repairs and renovations that the building requires in the future.
“I am not in favour of this. I understand it and why the city is looking at this,” said Eby. “I have been here for the entire discussion over the last several years. However, I am just not in favour of it.”
Coun. Jamey Logan was thrilled to see the sale go forward, noting the city was not in the rental business and the housing corporation could do a better job. He added that many residents would probably be opposed to subsidizing the building or paying for its required upgrades.
Other councillors expressed similar sentiments.
Coun. Doug Blanc noted that the city doesn’t have staff in the building daily to act as caretakers and know what’s happening, as it does in public venues such as the Yara Centre.
“The five-year tax exemption, we’re not collecting that now, so it won’t be money out of our pocket,” he added.
The existing agreement between the two parties is one of the most complex out there, said Coun. Crystal Froese. Meanwhile, she is pleased that this will be a “nice, easy transfer” and that the businesses and seniors’ association — the latter offering important community programming — will continue to operate.
“The Moose Jaw Housing Authority is more than capable to manage a building of this size and can bring it up to code,” she added. “This will be a really good relationship.”
The next executive committee meeting is Monday, Dec. 6.