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Vacant Lot & Adaptive Reuse Strategy

Vacant Lot & Adaptive Reuse Incentive Program

Vacant Lot & Adaptive Reuse Incentive Program

The Vacant Lot & Adaptive Reuse Incentive Program is designed to encourage development on existing vacant or brownfield sites, and the reuse of vacant buildings in established areas of the city, including the Downtown, by providing financial and/or tax based incentives to owners of eligible properties.

Under the Vacant Lot & Adaptive Reuse Incentive Program, a Maximum Incentive Amount will be equivalent to the increment between the existing property taxes (city portion) and the taxes paid upon completion, multiplied by five years.

The amount of the final incentive is determined through an evaluation system, based on points linked to policy objectives identified in the City's Official Community Plan. The points are used to determine what percentage of the total Maximum Incentive Amount may be available to the applicant. Under the Program, applicants are given a choice of a five-year tax abatement, or a grant.

The system is based on points out of 100. For instance, a score of 60 points earns 60% payout (upon completion) of the Maximum Incentive Amount. See the Maximum Incentive Grant Amount Example below: 

  Grant/Tax Abatement Calculation
Tax Increment (City portion) $10,000 x 5 years
Maximum Incentive Amount
Points (based on proposal evaluation)
$50,000 x 60/100
Incentive Amount $30,000
(paid on project completion)

To qualify under the incentive program, applicants will need to submit an application and a full development proposal for an existing vacant or brownfield site, or an adaptive reuse project that is within the area shown on the map below:

Vacant Lot Established Neighbourhoods Map

Recent Policy Updates

At the November 20, 2017 meeting of City council, an amendment to the VLAR Incentive Program Policy was approved to include the following:

  • Improved clarity for Downtown developments by providing access to a five-year tax abatement or a cash grant for all new residential or office developments, without a vacancy requirement; 
  • Provide heritage buildings with access to incentives for adaptive reuse, without requiring a minimum vacancy requirement or change of use; and
  • Encouraging the protection of heritage buildings by specifying that sites with heritage buildings are only eligible for adaptive reuse incentives to discourage proposed developments that would involve the removal of a heritage building.

Vacant Lot Garden Incentive

At the June 27, 2016 meeting of City Council, an amendment to the VLAR Incentive Program Policy was approved to allow for gardening on vacant lots as an interim use. The program has been designed to promote urban agriculture as well as address the aesthetic and safety issues of vacant lots. The establishment of a garden on a vacant lot will not affect the opportunity for future incentives under the VLAR Program when the lot becomes developed.

To earn the incentive, applicants must convert a minimum of 50% or 100 m2 of a vacant lot, whichever is smaller, into a garden and maintain the site in a safe and orderly manner. All noxious weeds must be controlled, and the garden must not generate odour, dust, drainage impacts, or noise that may impact neighbouring properties or the right of way.

The incentive is an annual grant for the property owner equal to 50% of municipal land tax, for up to five years. A written agreement is required between the property owner and gardener(s) if they are not one and the same, to indicate that there is an arrangement in place to permit a garden to operate on the vacant lot.

Vacant Lot Inventory 

As part of the Vacant Lot & Adaptive Reuse Strategy, the City of Saskatoon maintains a comprehensive inventory of undeveloped land, which also includes surface parking lots. All lands that fall into these "undeveloped" categories are considered vacant. 

The inventory includes the following information about vacant sites:

  • Civic Address 
  • Site Area 
  • Neighbourhood 
  • Zoning Designation 
  • Legal Land Description

The inventory is limited only to established neighbourhoods (infill sites only), and excludes any sites that are considered to be undevelopable (e.g. walkways, right-of-ways, and other residual parcels). The inventory also excludes all ownership information. This is to ensure compliance with federal and provincial privacy legislation. 

The public Vacant Lot Inventory is regularly updated following the internal update of the property use information as part of the property assessment cycle.

Please note that the Vacant Lot Inventory comes with the following disclaimer:

The City of Saskatoon provides the following records for reference only. It is not intended as a list of properties for sale or as a development opportunity. Using available records at the time, the sites are assumed to have no permanent structures on them and the site may or may not be available or suitable for re-development purposes.

Not all properties listed here have necessarily been vacant for the 48 consecutive months required to be eligible for the Vacant Lot and Adaptive Reuse Incentive Program.  While this inventory is provided as a reference for all vacant infill sites, properties that are actually eligible for incentives will vary.  Contact the Neighbourhood Planning Section to confirm how long a property has been vacant.

Brownfield Redevelopment

The redevelopment of brownfield sites result in numerous benefits to municipalities, citizens, and the developers who take on these projects. Increased tax revenue, improved environmental condition, economic opportunities, job creation, and revitalized neighbourhoods are just some of the benefits that are realized by brownfield development. However, brownfield redevelopment has its challenges including difficulty finding financing, liability concerns, regulatory requirements, and the perception and stigma association with potential contamination.

To encourage the adaptive reuse of brownfield sites within the city, and to educate owners on the issues and benefits of brownfield redevelopment, the City developed  Redeveloping Brownfields in Saskatoon: A Guidebook in 2010.

Many changes have occurred over the years which have made the Guidebook somewhat outdated. It does, however, still include pertinent information regarding the general approach to managing, addressing, and overcoming challenges regarding potential contamination through the environmental site assessment approach. It also illustrates successful brownfield redevelopment projects that have been undertaken in Saskatoon. It should be noted that since the document was published, the Environmental Management and Protection Act, overseen by the Saskatchewan Ministry of Environment which regulates activities pertaining to contamination reporting, assessment, and remediation, underwent considerable changes in 2015. The Saskatchewan Ministry of Environment's Guidance Document: Impacted Sites now has the most recent information available on contaminated sites legislation. 

In addition, the Guidebook makes reference to temporary incentive programs that are no longer available. Please refer to the Vacant Lot and Adaptive Reuse incentives listed on this page for the most relevant information on brownfield redevelopment incentives. The Guidebook will undergo revisions to reflect applicable brownfield municipal programs and industry standards in the near future.