Growth Fee Update #2

Sep 21, 2016

Proposed growth fees ignore existing development agreements and unfairly charge new home buyers

September 21, 2016 - As of this morning, the City of Winnipeg's Executive Policy Committee held over the matter of growth fees to new development in Winnipeg indefinitely. This means further discussion will take place before any new charges to home buyers are implemented at the City level. While fees on new development will eventually come into effect, we at Qualico Communities hope and expect the City will formulate appropriate charges that reflect the true and measured impacts of new development that will be fair to new home buyers.

In 2011, the City of Winnipeg adopted its master planning document, OurWinnipeg. The document outlined the strategic vision and direction for all residential development in Winnipeg and was to serve as the guide for future development in Winnipeg. OurWinnipeg’s vision for new communities is that they “are inclusive neighbourhoods with a variety of housing types within walking distance of mixed use districts that offer opportunities for shopping, employment and entertainment.”

Qualico Communities is embracing the vision of OurWinnipeg and providing a variety of housing types and sizes in RidgeWood West to allow for greater density and diversity in the community. Opportunities for shopping and employment are within a 25-minute walk of RidgeWood West, and several schools, parks, trails, and the Westdale Community Centre and Pool are even closer to the new community. In addition, we are creating new and sustainable outdoor spaces that increase the quality of our overall ecosystem and lower future maintenance requirements by the City.

Good Growth Needs Good Plans

The City of Winnipeg is currently reviewing a ‘growth fee’ structure that will charge new home and condo buyers an additional $10 per square foot of building. This regime of a per-square foot tax is not a charge that correlates with the impacts of new growth, nor does it enable the good growth envisioned in OurWinnipeg. The structure of this fee will negatively impact the ability to make all new communities the dense and vibrant neighbourhoods that the City says its new communities should be.

The assertion that new development does not pay for infrastructure outside of a development is false. While no formula currently exists for how to charge new developments for off-site infrastructure, off-site costs can be included in the development agreement between a developer and the City of Winnipeg. The additional growth tax does not respect the development agreements already in place. Instead, it unfairly taxes new home buyers for infrastructure funding agreements that were negotiated at the out-set of their community.

In the case of RidgeWood West, the plan took over two years to complete and resulted in the creation of a transportation levy for all developers in Ridgewood South (the precinct that RidgeWood West is in). The transportation levy covers both the arterial and collector roads inside the precinct, and upgrades and improvements to existing transportation infrastructure in surrounding Charleswood.

Mayor Bowman has stated “existing property tax payers cannot be expected to shoulder responsibility for rebuilding our city after years of neglect”. We don’t think new home buyers should be disproportionately burdened to pay for the City’s past neglect, especially when the purchase of their new home has already contributed to the measured impact of their community through a City-approved development agreement.

Calls Went Unanswered

The development community has been calling for improved development cost charge mechanisms for almost two decades. Since 2000, the Urban Development Institute (UDI) in Manitoba has proposed that the City establish a proper road hierarchy to provide clarity around the funding responsibilities of new roads. This hierarchy is common in the transportation plans of Western Canadian cities. Winnipeg had no such plan at the time, and despite the creation of the Winnipeg’s first Transportation Master Plan in 2011, the plan lacks the detail necessary to create development charges that would actually address the impacts of new growth.

The City of Winnipeg does not have development charge formulas because it does not have the rigorous plans that are necessary to properly establish such charges. Rigorous plans are at the foundation of well-established charges in other municipalities. Last spring, UDI proposed again that the industry and the City work together to establish a mechanism to fund growth related road infrastructure, there was no response from the administration.

Moving Forward with Growth in Mind

Qualico Communities, as a member of the UDI, could support a well-formulated and sustainable development fee structure; one that properly assigns responsibility of new development to new infrastructure and positively contributes to the long-term growth and development of Winnipeg. We are willing to work with the City of Winnipeg to develop a reasonable and measurable development cost charge structure that embraces sound planning practices that are proven to be measurable against the impact of growth.

We believe Winnipeg can grow in a way that addresses financial stability, infrastructure and quality of life for Winnipeggers – but we need to take the time to create the plans and do it right.