Housing and Growth

The discussion around provincial housing regulations hasn’t slowed down, as the first of several deadlines related to bills 44, 46, and 47 came and went. Some Cities have complied, some have chosen a different path. In New Westminster we adopted two Bylaws in June that make us complaint, and staff are busily working on the next steps- a renewed Housing Needs Assessment, OCP updates, and revising our DCC, ACC, and Density Bonus programs.

City staff are also working with provincial staff on their Housing Target Order methodology, so we can respond on the expected timeline, likely in August. I was on the radio last week alongside the Mayor of Langley Township talking to Belle Puri about this (you can listen here!), and we had slightly different takes on the core issue. I actually agree with the Minister that the introduction of Small-scale Multi-Unit Housing and Transit Oriented Area regulations will be a good thing. IT is clearly a massive hassle and staff time suck to implement, and will likely slow down development for a short period of time while everyone finds their path through the massive changes, in the end it will be a positive for the reshaping of the next era of regional growth.

My problem remains that we have had some significant tools taken away that we have used to fund infrastructure and amenities in our community. Equally troubling is that our ability to compel developers to build childcare, to provide spaces for new schools or parks, or to include affordable housing as part of their developments, has been eroded at the same time that the cost for development has gone up. It is unclear whether the Province is going to give us the money needed to make up for these shortfalls, or expect property tax to fill the void.

That said, I did appreciate the Minister’s thoughtful responses the next day (you can hear them here!). We are all trying to get the same thing done on housing, and I hope that the province brings the kind of aggressive, proactive change to our funding model that they did to our building approvals model. Dare to dream.

There was another related piece of news that snuck out last week, and it was related to a report we received at Metro Vancouver Regional Planning Committee. Metro staff working with academic demographers have created updated regional growth projections. These are not “targets” the region is aiming for, but instead projections of what is likely to happen given demographic changes, birth/death statistics, immigration, and inter-regional and inter-provincial migration patterns. The numbers are all here in this report.

The local angle on this might surprise some folks, especially my colleague on the radio last week from Langley Township who always refers to his community as the “high growth region”, that the City projected to grow fastest over the next 6, 16, and 26 years is New Westminster. Here’s the numbers:

These are numbers for the medium-growth scenario, but both the low-growth and high-growth scenarios have us in a similar spot: top of the charts for proportional growth.

There are a lot of factors that drive this, including our commitment to Transit Oriented Development and the large proportion of our City that is near that transit, but also the balance of housing types, the “sweet spot” between affordability and location on the north side of the River, and the attractiveness to both young families in the growing stage, and new arrivals to Canada and the Lower Mainland – for every reason you choose to live here.

This speaks to our Housing Needs Report, but it also speaks to our need to invest in infrastructure now to support that growth, and the community amenities that residents want in a thriving, growing community. Adding austerity to this trend will be a disaster for the livability of our community, we need to show leadership to shape a community that serves today/s residents, and the people arriving tomorrow.

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