Those wanting to settle in a smaller town and enjoy a slower-paced lifestyle can move to Ponoka — and get paid to do so.
The Town of Ponoka has made changes to its new Resident Attraction and Incentive Program so more residents can qualify for the program when it comes to major home renovations. The program also gives a grant to buyers of resale homes.
Together, the incentives aim to attract people to Ponoka by giving property tax breaks to new residents of Ponoka and for those who build new homes in town or raise their property value through renovations.
The program was approved by council on Aug. 11, however, council and administration felt some changes were needed.
“In writing the policy [that administers the program] we realized there were two parts of the assessment increase that we would like to see changed as part of it,” said Laura Brochu of corporate services during her presentation to council on Sept. 1.
When the program was approved, residents would have had to increase their property value by 50 per cent to qualify for the program, and that threshold has now been lowered to 20 per cent and has excluded land from the assessment value calculation.
Brochu’s presentation included data and examples of past major renovations completed by residents, and showed if improvements would meet the threshold with the different qualifying percentages, as well as with and without the value of land.
“As you can see, the numbers really don’t suit that 50 per cent.”
Ponoka Mayor Rick Bonnett agreed.
“That was one of the things when it came out; I thought 50 per cent was a little steep,” said Bonnett.
The program gives a 75 per cent tax reduction on the municipal tax increase in the first year, 50 per cent in the second year, and 25 per cent in the third year, for residents who complete renovations between March 15, 2020 and December 31, 2021.
Sandra Lund, general manager of corporate services, says giving the tax breaks has no budgetary impact for the town, as it is a tax decrease on the improvement only.
“I’m extremely impressed by what you’ve presented tonight,” said Coun. Teri Underhill.
“You gave me numbers, you gave me logic, I am extremely happy and I like what you’re presenting — I fully support it.”
The program has already seen some success, with five new residents moving to Ponoka since the program was launched, coming from larger urban centres such as Edmonton and Calgary.
The town has also started to receive applications from residents who are completing major renovations.
“It’s exciting to see that the program is working,” said Bonnett in a news release.
“By attracting new residents, encouraging the construction of new houses and encouraging major renovations on existing homes, Ponoka is increasing its tax and assessment base, and generating new revenue to help our community grow and thrive into the future.
“Attracting new residents also increases the number of people who shop at our local businesses, which helps build a stronger local economy.”
New residents will also receive grants for moving to Ponoka.
Buyers of resale homes who move to Ponoka can qualify for a one-time-per-property New Resident Grant of $1,000, or $500 for a manufactured home purchased in a manufactured home park as well under the new program.