Saanich developers could soon start paying more for infrastructure needed to service their developments.
Saanich council meeting as committee-of-the-whole Monday will consider proposed revisions to development cost charges (DCCs). Saanich defines DCCs as fees collected from land developers on a user-pay basis to fund the cost of growth-related infrastructure such as sanitary sewers, transportation, and storm drainage as well as parks.
Proposed DCCs for a single family (outside Cordova Bay) are $13,498 per lot. In July 2018, the proposed draft rate was $16,360. The new figure still marks a jump of 180 per cent from the previous rate of $4,809 for the same lot.
Councillors are considering the proposed revisions after a second round of consultation had heard that proposed rates first presented in July 2016 are too high among other concerns.
New rates before councillors are now about 20 per cent lower for residential developments and about 15 per cent lower for non-residential development, according to staff.
But the new rates will likely not ease the concerns of the Victoria Residential Builders Association (VRBA), whose executive director Casey Edge has been a vocal critic of the proposed increases and argues that they run counter to the municipality’s stated goal of increasing affordability.
In recent days, VRBA has married this critique of higher development cost charges by pointing that Saanich sit on a surplus of almost $1 billion.
“It is not credible for Saanich councillors and other municipal councils like Victoria (over half a billion dollar surplus) claiming to support housing affordability, while ‘sitting on a mountain of cash’ and boosting costs on the mortgages of young families,” the association writes on its site.
According to the staff report before council, the “public expressed support for the DCC rates proposed” but also raised concerns.
Developers not only found the rates too high, but also asked the municipality to phase in the rates changes, “noting that the timing was challenging due to high land and construction costs as well as recent provincial taxes imposed…and other initiatives such as the Building Step Code requirements.”
According to the staff report, developers also asked to increase municipal assistance, and consider development cost charge waivers and reductions for affordable housing developments.
Staff ultimately recommended lower rates and a phase in, and council has asked staff to come forward with a bylaw aiding not-for-profit affordable rental housing.
Megan Catalano, a Saanich spokesperson, said VRBA’s claim Saanich is ‘sitting on a mountain of cash is not accurate. “Some of the numbers do represent actual cash,” she said. “However, most of the numbers represent assets and restricted reserve funds.”
In responding to the higher rates, Catalano said almost twenty years have passed since Saanich has made any changes, oror since developers saw an increase in fees. “We appreciate that the changes in costs may be concerning to developers,” she said. “However, it’s important that Saanich remains committed to acting with all parties in mind. We want to harness the economic benefits of development in Saanich, but not at the expense of taxpayers or future generations.”