Business leaders from Victoria and across the nation have urged the Canadian government to implement measures that would help revitalize downtowns in urban centres throughout the country.
As inflation continues to climb and the cost of operating a business reaches unprecedented levels, the Downtown Victoria Business Association (DVBA) and other downtown business advocates within the International Downtown Association Canada (IDA Canada) coalition are calling on the government to reduce the ever-climbing vacancy rates.
Victoria’s downtown vacancy rate is estimated at 12% while other prominent cities have rates of up to over 30%.
Toronto’s vacancy rate is 14%, Halifax’s is at 13%, Winnipeg is at 30% and Edmonton is at 33%.
IDA Canada says that these vacancies are caused by a myriad of post-COVID-19 factors which include rising costs, labour shortages and operational barriers caused by anti-social behaviours.
They are adamant that addressing these issues is imperative to economic rejuvenation and community prosperity.
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In addition to tackling those issues, IDA Canada is asking for another Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA) loan repayment extension. These loans of up to $60,000 were given to businesses interest-free during the pandemic to help keep them afloat and they must be repaid by January 18th of next year.
This date was extended once already this fall, but only by 18 days from its original repayment date of December 31st.
“While government efforts have certainly aided struggling businesses, the brief 18-day extension for federal payments falls short of what’s needed,” said Kate Fenske, Chair of IDA Canada.
“Many businesses are teetering on the edge. The very core of our downtowns and main streets — our central business districts — are feeling the strain. The moment calls for collaborative and holistic strategies.”
IDA Canada believes that if the federal government were to funnel funding into regions economic development agencies, such as the DVBA, with the sole purpose of providing money to downtown businesses, these vacancy rates might be driven down.
“This isn’t solely about lengthening loan repayments, vital as that is,” said Fenske.
“We’re looking at addressing systemic issues impacting every riding from coast to coast. Downtowns and main streets are the economic lifeblood of our communities, and relief, restructuring, and visionary leaders are needed to ensure their prosperity.”
To achieve better downtown sector prosperity, IDA Canada says it will take a collaborative partnership with the government who must provide aid to businesses struggling with their loans.