City awards critical new grant to Red Gate Arts Society to help cover escalating taxes


After years of displacement due to escalating property costs, the Red Gate Arts Society has been granted a one-time stay as part of a new city initiative.

This week, the city voted to grant him $ 27,000 in critical one-time funding as part of a new initiative to save affordable artist spaces in a rapidly disappearing real estate climate.

Red Gate has been at 1965 Main Street (the former home of VIVO Media Arts and Vancouver Art and Leisure) for 18 months with a triple net lease, meaning it has to cover property tax increases. It secured the lease until July 31, 2023, with two renewals of five years each. Red Gate’s taxes have increased by $ 18,000 since last year, pushing them beyond their financial capacity to exploit the space.

Red Gate operates affordable artist production studios, a gallery, and a performance and gathering space for the local independent arts and music industry. About 70 to 80 artists share the site.

The long history of displacement of society illustrates the crisis that is occurring in affordable art spaces in the city. Founded in 2012 after 28 years of operating as a for-profit organization with facilities on Powell and Hastings streets, the organization eventually closed its doors at 152 West Hastings in 2011 due to rising rents. In 2012, the group moved into an industrial building at 855 East Hastings, with dreams of creating a permanent home, working with the city to launch an arts events licensing program, and hosting a series of workshops for the community. But after five years, Red Gate was again billed out of place with a big rent increase.

What happens after this year’s reprieve? A report from city staff said: “At that time, it is hoped that the policy changes to the tax system will progress, allowing Red Gate to conduct more sustainable operations in the future.” Among the plans, cultural services staff are to launch new grants for affordable cultural spaces to support nonprofit space operators that provide subsidized and affordable spaces for professional artists and cultural groups. Additionally, the provincial government has announced that it is working on legislation for interim property tax relief – a measure that would allow municipalities to grant exemptions to certain commercial properties.

In British Columbia, properties are rated “highest and best use” by BC Assessment, and taxes are allocated based on those values, many of which are inflated due to the rising real estate market. commercial and residential here.

As Red Gate mourns in the open letter to the city on its website, “Due to the proximity of office towers and condos under construction, we are taxed on the ‘potential’ value developed, which has more than quadrupled in just 4 years (estimated at 2.5 million in 2015, 11.2 million in 2019), so even though we are a non-profit cultural organization in an old low-rise building, we are taxed at the same rate as the adjacent for-profit corporate megaliths. “

The city estimates that over the past year more than 21 studios in industrial spaces with around 400 artists have been closed or are threatened with displacement due to dramatic increases in property taxes and rents, competition with higher value land uses and development. pressure. Staff cited spaces such as Merge Studios, Duplex, Dynamo, Index, White Monkey, Creative Coworkers and Toast Collective as having closed or threatened.

The Straight reported late last year that an Eastside Culture Crawl study found that 400,000 square feet of artist studio space in its basin was lost due to conversions and redevelopment over the course of the last decade.

In an online petition, Red Gate urged the city of Vancouver and the province of British Columbia to tax undeveloped properties on existing use, not potential speculative use. And that non-profit cultural organizations should be fully exempt from property tax, such as churches and sports stadiums,

The $ 27,000 for Red Gate was taken from the Culture | Shift Fund’s new Affordable Space Grant, recommended as part of the city’s larger report, Making Space for Arts and Culture, its long-term cultural strategy. .

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