Land sales could fill city’s coffers

The dog days of summer haven’t put a damper on MLS® sales activity. There were 1,250 sales in July, establishing a fourth consecutive month when dollar volume exceeded the $200-million mark. Because of the high dollar volume, the WinnipegREALTORS® Association is expecting to realize for the first time $2-billion in annual MLS® sales.

On the heels of another successful month for local real estate transactions, Mayor Sam Katz delivered a speech on August 1, 2007, about the recently-released Economic Opportunity Commission report which was established to come up with methods to offset the 

revenue lost when the business tax is eliminated. 

One idea raised by the mayor was for the city to put its surplus city land up for sale so it could become a net property tax generator for its coffers. The commission identified that the city possesses a considerable land and building inventory — over 400 buildings with a replacement value of $100,000 or more each. The city also has a vast land inventory with some parcels dating back to the amalgamation of Unicity in the 1970s. The commission estimated that with a more effective system of land and building use the City could save up to $3 million a year.

It is obvious from the unparalleled success of organized real estate’s public websites — and its commercial counterpart — and the network of over 90,000 REALTORS® across the country with the market expertise to generate record MLS® sales activity, that it would be in the city’s best interest to seriously consider the advantages inherent in a partnership with WinnipegREALTORS®. A partnership through an open tendering process could put the power of MLS® and the local commercial property information exchange (cpix) to work in selling the city’s excess land and building inventory.

“... I will ask my colleagues in council to take the lead on a so-called ‘land review’ to help us reduce the size and cost of the city’s real estate footprint,” said Katz.

It is clear that WinnipegREALTORS® members, who specialize in all facets of real estate, should be consulted when the land review process gets underway. The city has nothing to lose and everything to gain by engaging professionals who live, eat and breathe real estate and who possess the expertise to make things happen.

Of course, there are a number of other initiatives outlined in the Economic Opportunity Commission report to help the city realize enough savings and generate new revenues to phase out the business tax within six years. The report is available at city hall or on the website

Other reasonable proposals contained in the mayor’s speech were:

• Shifting portioning.

• Sharing service delivery with the province.

• Alternative management of the Brady Road landfill, service delivery by BIZ groups, and tendering out more construction work.

In the end, the goal is to create more economic opportunity and generate more investment and jobs in Winnipeg. WinnipegREALTORS® is prepared to step up and contribute to this valuable exercise.