B.C. introduces changes to municipal development amenity and infrastructure fees

Characterized by a local development institute as “some of the most substantial changes to the development approval process in decades,” the B.C. government introduced new legislation Tuesday morning that hopes to streamline and add transparency to municipal charges for amenities and infrastructure.

Bill 44, if passed, would require local governments to “shift their planning to an up-front framework,” and pre-zone land to meet housing needs, and reduce the use of current rezoning processes. It would also apply to Vancouver, under that city’s own Charter.

Practically, this means amenity costs and agreements would be compiled at the beginning of the project, rather than during the rezoning stage.

The government says it would also shift the ability of municipalities to collect funds from home builders to pay for core local infrastructure needs, like water and sewerage, and allow municipalities the “flexibility” to allocate the funds to local services like police, fire halls, and other services that “support new homes.”

The province also notes that the shift would allow for DCCs to pay for municipalities’ portions of cost-shared projects with the province, such as highway interchanges and exits.

“Prior to this amendment, one of the only options to recover these costs was through property taxes,” the Ministry of Housing said in a statement Tuesday.

Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon says this move is the government “taking decisive action” to build more homes in B.C.

“By doing this, we’re not just building homes for people, but also more sustainable, well-planned communities,” Kahlon said.

The introduction of Bil 44 comes as the Federation of Provinces said they were considering passing legislation that would prevent the federal government from negotiating housing funding city by city but instead standardize it across the board.

President and CEO of Urban Development Institute Anne McMullin says this proposed change and the zoning measures announced last week are “substantial changes.”

“UDI is encouraged by this new legislation which aims to make development charges more transparent and predictable,” McMullin said.

The message from the Premier’s office is that recent changes the government has made to housing has altered the zoning phase which removed times that municipalities used to negotiate with developers for more funds to pay for infrastructure needed for the development.

The premier’s office explains Bill 44 provides other tools to recoup those expenses. It also provides certainty for developers, the process and rates they will need to pay will be clear, not one-offs as has been the case.

Lower Mainland mayor glad infrastructure issue is being recognized

As the changes to infrastructure and amenity fees come, Burnaby Mayor Mike Hurley says he’s glad the issue of infrastructure funding is being noticed.

“I am glad it’s being recognized — everything else that goes along with housing, [so] we’re not just building lego blocks here,” he told CityNews.

“Toilets have to flush at the end of the day, water has to be supplied, garbage has to be picked up — all of these play a factor and I’m glad that [it is] at least being recognized by the other levels of government, if not funded yet.”

However, Hurley does see a sticking point with the province’s proposed changes. All development cost charges will still need to be approved by the province, as cities can’t levy those fees.

“That will be a sticking point, I would guess. And usually, the province is not very quick to get things done, either, although they point fingers at others. So, let’s hope this is a good step,” he said.

More to come.

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