Saturday, January 21, 2012

Yukon's Reservoir Levels - mid-January Update

The Yukon's Energy Battery just got bigger!  - Yukon Energy mentioned that their Mayo-B and Aishihik 3 turbines are now running, so now the stored water will go further, making more energy.

As of mid-January, the energy stored in the reservoirs is about 68% full, about 4% more energy that on average for this time of year.   I wonder how fast it will be used over the next two weeks as it has been so cold?

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Idea for improving affordable housing availability

Late last year the Government of Yukon sought ideas for improving affordable housing availability. The following is my suggestion that would help deal with all the vacant and under-developed lots downtown:

My specific suggestion is to move to land value taxation from our current property improvement tax system. A solution lies in how property tax is assessed and would be revenue neutral (ie. wouldn't cost government anything). Our current tax assessment process is primarily based on the value of the improvements on the property, with less emphasis given to the land value itself. This assessment method is actually a disincentive to redevelopment and development of revenue generating buildings (e.g. rental or multi-housing). In fact, under our current property tax assessment system, holding fallow or underutilized land for speculation is encouraged. This is because if a developer wishes to develop a high quality, multi-use building, the tax on that property rises, whereas if they do nothing, or construct a low-quality development, the property tax is lower.

The alternative to property tax assessment is land-value taxation. Under this system, the tax on real estate is commensurate with the site's potential value, regardless of what buildings may occupy the site. Therefore, holding fallow or underutilized land is a cost to the developer. The developer will want to construct the highest quality (and highest income yielding) development on the property as possible, comfortable in knowing the taxation will not change significantly. Under the land-value taxation system, holding land is expensive, and high-quality re-development is actually encouraged by the taxation system. A good overview is found on wikipedia at:, or another nice summary of this system can be found at:

Obviously the land-value taxation would be gradually moved to over a number of years so land-owners know it is coming and it doesn't cause a tax-shock for them. For example, increase the land portion of the tax assessment by 10% and decrease the improvement portion by 10% every year for 10 year. At the end, the tax would be assessed 100% on land and 0% on improvements. The specific rates would need to be looked at so that on balance the tax is revenue-neutral relative to the current tax base.

This would be an easy, revenue neutral way to get some of that fallow-land in Whitehorse into providing housing for people, and would ultimately lead to a better built environment for the community. Some have criticized the City (perhaps unjustly) for "not doing its part" by allowing all these derelict lots downtown, but instead going and developing in new areas. This could be a means to directly show that the municipality, supported by YG, is doing its part to provide sustainable housing to the community.