Property Tax Incentives

What is it?

A Property Tax Incentive can exempt a property owner from paying all or a portion of their property taxes at the discretion of the local government, potentially offset through a grant from another agency.  These opportunities are very limited in Alberta, but in other jurisdictions Property Tax Exemptions are  used as a tool to incent protection of parcels important to the natural infrastructure system.

How can municipalities use it?

Municipalities can use Property Tax Incentives to incentivize land owners to manage their land in such a way that benefits the natural infrastructure system. For example, some jurisdictions offer a Property Tax Incentive to land owners who have a conservation easement on their property, or whose property contains valued natural features.

What are the advantages?

Property Tax Incentives have the following advantages:

  • Makes conserving parcels with important natural infrastructure a more economically-viable option for landowners

  • Raises awareness of practices that help maintain, protect, or enhance the natural infrastructure system that may not have been apparent prior to the program being available

  • Municipalities can target programs to specific types of natural infrastructure

What should you watch out for?

No tool is a silver bullet. There are some potential issues to be considered regarding Property Tax Incentives, including:

  • Alberta’s tax regime is more restrictive than other jurisdictions, making these programs more difficult, and the opportunities very limited

  • Municipalities may perceive that this as a fiscal loss

  • Small municipalities in particular may have limited fiscal leeway to implement such a program

  • Many people (both landowners and municipal councilors) currently have the mistaken belief  that the conservation lands qualify for an automatic exemption

  • Resources are needed to approve applications and administer the rebates and/or exemptions

  • Partners in provincial agencies or local NGOs may be difficult to find

  • This tool is not currently in active use in Alberta

How can it help maintain natural infrastructure?

Property Tax Incentives help to maintain the natural infrastructure system by incentivizing property owners to conserve or manage their property in a more environmentally-friendly way. In other jurisdictions (such as BC) rebates/exemptions can be given for a broad range of conditions, so the benefit to the natural infrastructure system will vary. In some BC and Ontario muicipalities, for example, a rebate/exemption can be given in return for placing a conservation easement on a property that can protect and connect a vital piece of the natural infrastructure system, or to property owners who retrofit their home to conserve water, which helps to maintain water quantities in the natural infrastructure system.

Resources

City of Hamilton Proposed Natural Areas Acquisition Fund Strategy – submitted by the Hamilton Planning and Economic Development Department to set aside funds annually for the acquisition of Natural Area lands. The general purpose of a Natural Areas Acquisition Fund Strategy is to outline the requirements for the implementation of the Natural Areas Acquisition Fund. It provides details on the suite of securement tools available for landowners who have natural heritage system lands located on their property. It also provides a framework for determining the natural heritage lands that would be suitable for acquisition by the City of Hamilton, and fosters relationships with Hamilton partners that currently participate in the securement of natural heritage system lands within the City of Hamilton. This document discusses several different tax incentive programs.


Economic Instruments to Facilitate Stormwater Management on Private Property – created by the Sustainable Technologies Evaluation Program (STEP), a partnership between several conservation groups in southern Ontario, this white paper explores the mechanisms available to incent installation of Low Impact Development (LID) technologies, with particular focus on private commercial properties. This document includes information on tax exemptions related to green infrastructure investments.


Halton Region Greenlands Securement Strategy – Developed by the Regional Municipality of Halton, the Greenlands Securement Strategy (“Strategy”) is intended to bring to the table land securement partners (“Halton Partners”), funding partners and other available resources within the Region to work cooperatively towards complimentary goals of securing further greenlands. Various tax exemption and rebate programs are outlined in this strategy.


Ottawa Greenspace Master Plan: Strategies for Ottawa’s Urban Greenspaces - The purpose of this document is to express Council’s vision for greenspace in the urban area and set policies for how this vision can be pursued. As the city grows, there is to be an adequate supply of greenspace, accessible to all residents. It will be high quality and sustainable and linked to allow for movement through green corridors. This document includes information on tax rebates/incentives.


Green Bylaws Toolkit: for conserving sensitive ecosystems and green infrastructure – This document is an important resource for understanding how municipalities and developers can safeguard the environment, from a regional to a site level. It clearly explains each tool, and provides case studies and examples of bylaws that are in use in British Columbia. Property tax exemptions for conservation are described in this document, along with associated case studies.

Did we miss something?

If you know of a resource that should be on this list - or your municipality has a sample or case that should be here, please let us know!