The topic of policing is coming up across the region in various forms, most of them related to elections. Last week, two non-incumbent people running for Mayor in the two largest Metro Vancouver municipalities are promising to increase the number of police officers to address a perception of increased crime. I have also heard some discussion recently about New West not increasing its police force to keep up with population growth. So I thought it would be good to write a blog that looks at the data, as a precursor to what is likely to be a deeper discussion in the community about policing.
When I say “the data”, I mean the information provided by police themselves and reported to the Province of BC. The Province has a page dedicated to collecting and reporting out all kinds of police information from across the province that you can find here. The part I am most interested in is report linked at the bottom of the page entitled “Police resources in British Columbia, 2020“. It is the most recent and comprehensive comparison of police forces across the province, and though I’ll add data caveats below, it seems like as definitive a source as one can find.
In comparing Metro Vancouver policing, there is one thing that needs to be addressed up front: of the 17 municipalities with more than 5,000 residents, 12 are served by municipal RCMP forces, and 5 are served by Municipal Police. When you dig into details, the service model is actually much more complicated than this, as there are Regional Task Forces that are shared between multiple jurisdictions and may include Muni and RCMP staff, and every city receives some services from some task forces while most also lend staff to these task forces. There are also other forces such as Transit Police and Federal RCMP detachments operating in the region. The overlaps are complex, and the report itself has a lot of text explaining these complications. Read that report if you want those kind of details.
A commonly heard point is that Municipal police cost more, but provide better service and better local accountability. This is the concept behind Mayor McCallum’s argument for establishing a Municipal force in Surrey. There are a couple of ways to look at policing cost, but these two make sense:
The orange points are Municipal forces, the blue are RCMP. You can see the policing cost per capita does tend support the notion that local cops cost a bit more. You also see there is a wide range of per capita costs regardless of the provider – Vancouver and Langley City residents pay almost twice as much as North Vancouver District residents do for police. You can see New West has the lowest costs of any Municipal force, but is still more costly than most RCMP forces. The cost per officer to run the police force does not vary quite as much, and you can see New West is middling-to-high compared to our cohort, but not completely out of scale with the regional average.
This brings us to the number of officers per capita, or (the easier wat to count it) the number of residents per police officer. I think the most interesting way to look at this number is compared to the Case Load. That stat is the number of criminal offences per officer, which is an imperfect but useful proxy for “how busy is the average cop?”
You can see here that New West is about smack dab in the middle of the region in both of these counts. Our numbers are remarkably close to Surrey, which is a very different city with an RCMP force (these stats were collected before the Surrey Municipal police force was set up). You also note that Municipal forces general have fewer people per police (more police per capita) and lower caseloads than RCMP forces, with New West again leaning towards RCMP levels more than fitting in with the Municipal Force cluster.
Of course, this discussion leads to a discussion about growth, and whether the police forces are keeping up with regional population growth. The data here is a again from the BC Government report, including the 2020 population data. I gathered the 2011 population data from another BC Government dataset you can find here if you want check my numbers.
You can see that by percentage of growth over the decade, very few police forces have added members at the rate that population has grown (the dots on or below the blue diagonal lines being the few that did), and two North Shore municipalities have fewer police now than they did in 2011. You will also note that there isn’t a clear divide between RCMP and Muni forces here. It is clear that the increase in Police in New West (going from 108 to 113) has not kept up with the 22% population increase. It is also interesting that Surrey and New West are so far apart in this graph, when they were overlapping in the last – the relationships between officer count, case count, and growth are obviously complex.
So those are the numbers (table form below for those who wish to nit-pick), and I am sure that this kind of data will lead to principled and well informed discussions in the community. I just want to make the point that is often missed in these discussions: City Councils generally do not determine police officer counts. In RCMP-serviced communities, I have no idea how those decisions are made. For a City with a Municipal force, that is the job of the Police Board working with senior policing staff, backed by provincial service standards and based on the unique needs of the community. If you are interested in leading the discussion on police officer counts in New Westminster, your opportunity is now, as the province is currently receiving applications for Police Board members right here in New Westminster. Apply here, the closing date is September 9th.
Finally, it is important to note some data caveats. These are 2020 numbers, the most recent the province has available. The actual number of sworn officers in your community is likely lower than the numbers here, because these stats are “Authorized Force” and assume that all funded positions in the police force are filled. This is rarely true in the best of times, but in the last few years we have had events that made it less true, such as the regional shifts related to Surrey ramping up its Municipal Force and the COVID-related Great Resignation affecting many sectors of the economy. Also, there was a dip in crime in 2020 related to COVID (this is discussed in the report), and though we might presume this dip was systemic and equal across the region, this data neither confirms nor refutes that.
In the comments, a reader suggested comparing Case Loads between 2011 and 2020 would be interesting. The table I downloaded from the province didn’t have case load data from 2011, but you can find CC Case counts in the “Jurisdiction Crime Trends” table on the same page. From that and the Authorized Strength already reported, you can calculate Case Loads from 2011 an 2020. The results are interesting, if a bit unclear. And again, I want to emphasize the 2020 data is likely anomalous due to COVID, so I also did the math comparing 2011 to 2019, which might be the most recent “representative” year. Sorry, the best you get is a table:
So Case Loads are generally down, but there are some municipalities where they went up, some by quite a bit – West Van and Maple ridge share a strange similarity here. You can also see an almost universal drop in 2020, except in White Rock. My first impression is probably that the majority of cases are likely more complex now than they were a decade ago, but once again, you can read form the numbers what you will! I’m just reporting here.
The Fraser Institute are up to their old tricks: shabby data gathering resulting in inaccurate results. I’ve demonstrated this before, and even sent them a letter outlining the big mistake they made last time they did this (not coincidentally four years ago, just before the last municipal election), and they have blithely made the same mistake again. So here I am to correct the record. Again.
The Record shingled this story into my social media feeds, and it speaks to this report prepared by the Fraser Institute. The report attempts to compare “spending per capita” and “revenue per capita” across the 17 largest municipalities in Greater Vancouver. I’ve said before, this is not a competition, but on the face of it, this isn’t the worst way to look at whether residents in various municipalities are getting value for their tax dollar. There are a few problems with over-simplification (I’ll talk about those further down), but as a first pass it is an interesting easy-to digest media byte.
The problem is, New Westminster, unlike any of the other 16 municipalities listed, has an electrical utility, and the data used by the FI rolls that Electrical Utility into the overall revenue and spending amount. Residents of every other city pay for electricity, but it is not included in these comparisons. This is not an insignificant difference. New West Electric pulls almost $50 Million in revenue ($622 per capita), and spends more than $40M ($505 per capita) every year.
So, much like I did last time, we can adjust for this significant factor, and shift the FI charts to reflect an apples-to-apples comparison. You see New West, when fairly compared, does not have the second highest spending in the region, but is tied with North Van City for 8th place, firmly in the middle of the pack:
And when fairly compared, New West does not have the second highest per capita revenue in the region, but instead tenth, slightly below the regional average:
The FI also conflates all revenue sources. This is problematic, because they vary greatly across the region. Municipalities have different fees for services and different ways of managing utilities. Also, as this is a data snapshot for only one year, factors like one-time senior government grants or sale of properties in any given year can really juice the numbers and make apples-to-apples difficult. When fans of FI reports talk about City spending, they are usually worried about taxes, so it is fortunate that the same government database from which the FI draws their numbers breaks down the revenue sources. It is easy to separate out Property Tax revenues from the pile, and compare on a per-capita basis. When you do that, you see New Westminster is one of the (and I totally buried the lede here) lowest-taxed municipalities on a per capita basis in the Lower Mainland:
And in case you are interested, here is that data in tabular form:
Now onto the detail part for those still interested.
I find the lack of adjustment for the electrical utility fascinating, not only because I pointed it out to them last time, but also because they do make and adjustment for the West Vancouver Blue bus system – a single-municipality expense and revenue stream. If you compare the FI data to the government database, you find West Van expenses are actually higher (by $417 per capita for spending and $910 per capita for revenue) than the FI report. They make that adjustment for West Van blue bus, but not for New West Electrical. This seems inconsistent.
Looking at the government database also demonstrates the problem with using snapshot data for one year. Line items in spending like “loss on disposition of assets” sound technocratic, but it is writing off value of assets either destroyed or sold off, and it varies across the region year by year as you might imagine. Add to this annual amortization adjustment, and cities with lots of physical assets (like Vancouver) and those that have invested recently in important infrastructure are disproportionately cast as spendthrifts. On the revenue side, one-time grants for big projects may be counted in this year data, but not reflect overall revenue generation ability. In 2019, Coquitlam sold $60 Million in assets – more than every other municipality combined – but that is not an annual (or sustainable) trend and does not reflect any long-term economic comparison between Coquitlam and any other municipality.
So the comparison is sloppy. And as much as I would like to counter some critics with the table that shows New Westminster spending growth over my time on Council as one of the lowest in the region (and, notably, much lower than the 18% cumulative inflation of the 10 years ), the way the FI presents data is so poorly explained that I don’t even feel good using it to tell a story that makes New West look like the kind of fiscally responsible municipality the FI would allege to support:
I just want the FI to do be fair, and the local and regional media to do a little bit of preliminary analysis before they credulously print their press release. After years of this kind of sloppy work the FI deserve to be treated with more scrutiny.
It is 2022, which means 2021 Census data is trickling out. If you are interested in this kind of data, you should probably be over at censusmapper or Mountain Doodles where Jens does cool things with maps and data visualization to make census numbers fun. But before you go, I want to talk a bit more about what the census can tell us about the regional housing situation.
I have written a few blog posts in the past that compare census data to the regional growth trends projects in the Regional Growth Strategy – the master document of regional planning for Metro Vancouver, and the one that all municipal Official Community Plans must align with. In those posts I compared the decade of population growth that the regional government planning folks predicted back in 2011 to the actual population growth shown in the census. Turns out (surprise!) growth is not evenly distributed around the region, and though the overall growth of the region is close to the projection (when you account for census undercount, which is an interesting phenomenon), but there are great regional variations between those communities that met or exceeded their regional growth projections and those that fell far short.
However, the population count is not something cities directly control (despite some fanciful promises candidates may offer). The region grows for many overlapping demographic, economic and socio-political reasons, and cities can either accommodate that growth (by supplying homes, employment spaces, utilities, infrastructure) or choose not to (and face housing price inflation, labour shortages, and failing services). The Regional Growth Strategy also includes projected dwelling counts for every community, and Cities though their policies and practices, have much closer control of this. It also happens that dwelling count is a major factor in housing affordability – the idea that increasing supply puts downward pressure on price is not controversial outside of some Landscape Architecture schools.
The 2021 dwelling count data was recently released by Statistics Canada, and we can now compare the decade-old RGS projected numbers for 2021 to the census numbers for 2021. I’ll start with a table, because I am not the data visualization genius Jens is:
I don’t think anyone would be surprised to see only 5 of 21 municipalities built more housing units than the RGS projected, though some may be surprised to see Vancouver exceed its targets by almost 20,000 units. As is probably expected, North Van City exceeded growth projections by the highest amount proportional to its population, and Delta, New West and White Rock round out the Municipalities that built more housing units that projected (and Richmond was within statistical error of it target). However, during a decade of overlapping housing crises, while everyone agrees the affordability of housing is the primary local government issue, every other Municipality in the Metro Vancouver fell short of the very commitment they made to the region to get new housing built.
Of course, not all munis are equal in size, nor are all munis equal in their ability to accommodate growth. A significant part of the Regional Growth Strategy is to emphasize new growth near transit and established transportation networks, to increase residential density near work / study / shopping areas to reduce transportation burdens, and to prevent the erosion of the ALR and and the Urban Containment Boundary. This is why the RGS set different targets for different municipalities, and came up with 2021 targets that every muni could agree to when they signed off on the document.
So I compared the projected increase in dwelling units from 2011 to 2021 to the amount that each municipality exceeded or fell short of the 2021 target based on 2021 census data, and you can see how the growth was not only shared unequally, but how different municipalities had different commitments to the agreed-upon plan. It is here that the two recalcitrant North Shore districts and the Tri-Cities really stand out.
Note this is not total dwelling units, just the increase between 2011 and 2021. It also shows that the apparently-rapid growth of new towers in Burnaby and Coquitlam are not enough to keep up with the demand that was projected in the region a decade ago. And that Sea Bus apparently is the great catalyst to urban growth?
The RGS is being updated right now, the decade-old document projecting to 2040 is being replaced with one projecting to 2050. All of the Municipalities are expected to sign off on it, though there are some rumblings Surrey is going to push back because they felt the other cities were not sufficiently diffident in granting them a major re-draw of the Urban Containment Boundary so they can replace forest with warehouses. One of the concerns raised by New Westminster through that process was that municipal projections/targets are being replaced with sub-regional ones that clump municipalities together, further reducing the accountability local governments have in addressing our serious housing crisis. And with strong anti-growth voices rising regionally during this local government election period, I am less confident that the order of government most able to bring in new supply is going to get the work done.
It’s been 11 months since the Heat Dome descended over the Lower Mainland. Despite the seemingly-endless spring we are having, thoughts are turning back to the ugly heat of last year because of the recent release of the Coroner’s report on heat related deaths from 2021.
I wrote some thoughts about the New West experience of the Heat Dome last summer while the information was still raw, and have not stopped talking about it since. At the Lower Mainland LGA and UBCM, to the media, and to a much-esteemed panel of subject matter experts:And we have been talking about it in the City as we review our Emergency Response programs and work with our First Responders to assure we are more prepared next time. I talked on CKNW this week about the Coroner’s report, and about what Municipalities are doing now.
New Westminster started to make changes right after the scale of the event became evident last year. As we learned our existing Heat Plan was effective for the type of heat events we expected and experienced in the past (a few days of 32 degree heat with significant cooling in the evening), we were like everyone else in being unprepared for 42 degree heat and nights staying in the high 20s. So as early as last July we ramped up the scale of our Heat Response to include 24-hour cooling centers including accommodation for pets and toward more proactive communications. We have also looked at Vancouver’s lead in public misting stations and strategies to make more open spaces more accessible refuges for people across the City.
This was only the beginning, though. The City has been completely re-vamping our Emergency Response Centre operations plan so we are more coordinated in the face of a regional challenge like this. Our goal is to be more nimble and more resilient in the event systemic shortcomings in Ambulance or E-Comm response re-occur. We are also looking at a different communications approach, though we still identify some potential barriers to reaching the most impacted – the elderly, the socially isolated, those with disabilities and people with language or cultural barriers.
The Report by the Death Review Panel is itself a good read (despite some shortcomings, discussed below). The actions coming out of it I lump into three themes (because I’m a lumper), and I in turn am thinking about the Municipal role in each of the themes.
Coordinated Response System. There are two pieces here, the setting up of a more functional and robust response program, and the execution of supports when the event occurs. Fortunately, the Province has rolled out (through the UBCM) a Community Emergency Preparedness Fund with $189 Million to help local governments do this prep work. There is also some active work both locally in our EOC review and in the Province to assure funds for immediate response are available and accounted for. 24hour cooling centers need staff, working in shifts, need to supply cots, food, water, pet supports – it is the management of these resources that requires the EOC function. We also need to fund transportation and outreach work, which again requires both staff and physical resources.
Identify and Support Vulnerable Populations: Again, the Community Emergency Preparedness Fund will help local governments in the “Identify” stage here with specific funding for Heat Risk Mapping, but the lack of disaggregated data on who was impacted in the last event is harming our ability to identify needs next time around. Especially in New West, the experiences of people with precarious immigration status, of recent immigrants, or people with language and cultural barriers was missed in the Coroner’s report. We don’t know what we don’t know, but at least anecdotally this was a challenge in New West. We have some work to do as a local government in mapping out these communities and finding the community connections that support our response.
Prevention and Mitigation: Building Code changes are a long-term solution to this emergent problem, as is planting trees and expanding green spaces to reduce urban heat island effects – this is work we are doing, though it will take a decade or more for the results to emerge. The need to renovate our oldest, lowest cost, and most vulnerable housing stock is a more medium-term response, and the speed of getting that done is mostly dependent on the money made available to make it happen. We need rapid deployment of a massive amount of senior government funds if we want to save lives in the next event. The Coroner’s Report talks about this, the Provincial government in their response talked directly to this, but we will have to wait to see what the action plan is.
One of the big flaws in the Coroner’s Report is in the Mitigation theme, and between my being on CKNW and me hitting publish on this, I have spent a couple of days talking local government climate action at the CLI, so you know where I am going here. This was a 56 page report about 619 people dying as a direct result of the Climate Emergency, and there is no reference to the need to rapidly address the cause of the Climate Emergency. No reference to plans to accelerate our decarbonizing of the economy, our building stock, our transportation systems, or our industrial incentive programs. This is a stunning gap, and a demonstration of how many parts of government still don’t understand Climate Disruption. MOTI, Ministry of Health, the Coroner, they see climate as that other Ministry’s problem. I don’t know what it is going to take to shake this cognitive dissonance off.
In the end, this report is about government response to a tragedy, and the number 619 is used to indicate severity of the problem, But 619 people is an abstraction, it’s a number, just as 33 people in New Westminster is a number. It’s the job of the Coroner to provide the count, but it isn’t their job to tell the stories of the people who died, or of the thousands of people who were traumatized by their loss. I am glad a few news stories are putting faces and names to the victims, to our neighbours and friends, to the humans and members of our community we lost in this shocking mass death event. And I’m hoping that recognition will shock governments at every level to action, perhaps even eat away at that cognitive dissonance.
In the zeitgeist of these times, one’s opinion about a day celebrating the intrinsic value of the planet that sustains us is probably influenced by the flavour of political leadership you prefer. But one thing that seems to bridge all political divides is the idea that trees are good things. That having more trees is better than having fewer trees. That we want to live near them and have them live near us.
So I want to mark Earth Day 2022 talking about trees.
We had a little event in Queens Park today, where Acting Mayor Nakagawa, the federal Minister of Natural Resources and the provincial Minister of Energy, Mines, and Low Carbon Innovation celebrated new trees in an established forest (more about why that is important below), and it gives me an excuse to talk about optimistic leadership.
The proverb is that the best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago, and the second best time is today. There is nothing more hopeful and optimistic than planting a tree. We know the benefits of the tree will not be enjoyed today, that the shade of the tree will not be provided for a decade or more. It takes years for the full noise-abatement, flood-prevention, air-cleaning, habitat-restoring, fruit-providing, carbon-sequestering values of a tree to be realized. The planning here is well outside of any election cycle. So it is an expression of hope to commit to, to fund, to plant a tree you may never sit in the shade of.
In New Westminster, we are planting trees like never before. Literally thousands of them. Our Urban Forest Management Strategy is in the rapidly-getting-trees-planted stage. Concentrating first on currently under-shaded neighbourhoods like the Brow of the Hill and Queensborough, the City is protecting established trees on public and private property, requiring new plantings on development lands, and (most importantly) planting new trees on City-owned lands, including parks and boulevards.
The reason we had Ministers in Queen’s Park on Earth Day in 2022 was around two great programs happening right now. Both are supporting our Urban Forest Management Strategy, and both are supported by valuable external grants we were able to secure to make New Westminster (literally) greener specifically because we have these clear strategies and goals.
The first is our program to restore natural areas in our parks with native plantings, supported by the Tree Canada National Greening Program. Through that program, we got assistance to support the restoration of the ground level of some of our established forests, such as in Hume, Glenbrook Ravine, and Queens Park. These are areas where the tree canopy is well established, but old. These “single generation” forests are majestic, but when the trees are not diverse and are all the same age, they become susceptible to disease, and are not buffered for natural secession. By changing the ground-level conditions and introducing both young trees and other ground-cover, we build a more robust and healthy forest. This makes the big trees healthier, and assures that we will have younger established trees to fill gaps when older trees naturally age out of the forest. This program will see 25,000 saplings and plant plugs put in the soil in 2022!
You may have noted the signage around Queens Park where these areas are being restored. The signage is there to help people understand why we are asking people to not walk or ride their bikes through these area, and to keep your dogs out of there, so the new plants and restored soil can do its thing:
The second program is a more city-wide Urban Reforestation and Biodiversity Enhancement Initiative. This is the result of a $1.7 Million grant from the (federal) Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program and (provincial) COVID-19 Resilience Infrastructure Stream (ICIP – CVRIS) grant programs. This is going to fund a huge amount of our target tree planting for 2022 and 2023, and allow us to establish a new 1-hectare pollinator pasture in the City.
We are on pace, thanks in part of these types of grants, to beat our target for 10,000 established new trees in the City by 2030. We know this is not the complete solution for climate disruption, but along with our ongoing efforts to reduce our corporate and community GHG emissions, we recognize that sequestration through trees will become an increasingly important part of reducing atmospheric GHG. At the same time, they make our community a more livable place. If we maintain the momentum of the last couple of years, we will exceed out Urban Forest Management Strategy target of 27% forest canopy cover by 2035, and this will be a completely transformed City by 2050.
There are ways you can help out! As important as they are to our long-term goals, new boulevard trees do not, unfortunately, have a 100% survival rate. The boulevard is a tough place to be a young tree. There often isn’t a lot of soil to hold water over dry summers, dogs pee on you, things bump into you, and there is little protection from wind, hard sun, and other indignities. We plan for some attrition with new plantings, but you can help reduce that rate and increase the chances that the lovely new tree near your home joins the ranks of the established. You can become a Tree Steward by signing up to Adopt a Street Tree! See the details here.
This can be your non-partisan Earth Day gift to the planet that sustains us, and to a generation you have not yet met who will enjoy the shade your tree provides in the decades ahead. Happy Earth Day.
As I mentioned last blog, we had a few public delegations at Council on Monday that were notable. I don’t often write about public delegations here unless they result in direct Council action, in which case they make it into my regular Council Reports. But anyone can delegate on any topic in New West, so we often don’t know what is coming, and are not prepared to directly address the issue raised in the council meeting. It is also a weirdly pre-election political time, and as such, more of these delegations will be seen in context of October 15th. So with the benefit of a few days of reflection, I might like to look at the points raised.
First, a candidate for Mayor made his first appearance in Council chambers to ask Council to put the 2030 Olympic bid to a referendum of New Westminster residents. I, frankly, did not know how to respond to this request.
For context, there are four First Nations (Musqueam, Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh and Líl̓wat) putting together a bid to host the 2030 Winter Olympics, relying heavily on existing infrastructure built for the 2010 games. They have invited the municipalities of Vancouver and Whistler to enter MOUs to define how they can work together to achieve the bid goals. New Westminster is not a party to those MOUs, we have not (yet) been invited by the host nations to enter those discussions, nor are the details of the bid established enough for us to have an informed conversation about its viability.
So when one suggests residents of New West be engaged in a referendum on this, I am not sure how we would even phrase a question without sounding profoundly colonial and setting back relationships we are respectfully trying to build with those indigenous communities on whose land we live and work, and whose land on which the broader “we” were very comfortable holding our own Olympics a decade ago without (to my knowledge) doing a referendum of Indigenous Peoples. Further, I don’t know how we would operationalize any answer (yes or no) without violating core principles of reconciliation at a time when we are building relationships. So the request was not timely, and was not something I can imagine us putting resources towards right now.
The second delegation was from a long-time Council Watcher reminding us that the Community Charter (Section 118) says a City over 50,000 people should have eight councilors, unless we have a Bylaw saying otherwise. Back in the early 2000’s New West made a decision when the population went over 50K to not add two new councilors. In 2005, the City Council of the time put a non-binding plebiscite question on the ballot, and 70% voted against an increase in council. We have not, in my time at least, had any conversation about revisiting that decision. That was 17 years ago, and now that we are over 80,000 residents, it seems reasonable for a resident to ask whether we should review that decision.
My reflex response is that I just don’t feel the public is in a place today where a strong majority sees “more elected people” as the solution to any problem. Maybe that is cynical, and I could hear an argument that more elected officials results in better and potentially more diverse representation. So am going to stay agnostic on this for now, and just look at the numbers.
There are 19 Municipalities in BC with population over 50,000. Of those, seven have 6 Councilors (37%), twelve have 8 Councilors (63%), and one has 10 Councilors (Vancouver, which has its own Charter, so it doesn’t count here). Here is how they plot in population vs. council count:
Of the seven municipalities in BC with a population larger than 50,000 and six Councilors, four have a larger population than New West (Delta, Chilliwack, Maple Ridge, and the District of North Vancouver) and two are smaller than New West (Port Coquitlam and North Vancouver City). There is one municipality with population smaller than New West with eight Councilors, and that is Prince George (which despite a current spurt in growth, has effectively the same population as it did in the 1990s).
So what I take from this is that New West in not currently anomalous in its number of councilors, but would be one of the smallest municipalities with eight if we made the shift. This, of course, doesn’t mean that the number is perfect, or that the rules the way they are set up is optimal, only that New West seems to be within the category of nominal in regards to Council count. Let the conversation in he community ensue…
Finally, we had a presentation from a representative of the Uptown BIA expressing concern about the proposed Uptown Active Transportation improvements. This followed up on a letter sent to Council by the BIA.
The current plan is the result of lengthy public and user group consultation, and addresses the point that a new High School and major park destination is not well connected to our local or regional active transportation network. Direct-as-possible routes from the Crosstown Greenway on the west (through Moody Park, already built) and east (along 200m/2 blocks of 6th street) were identified as active transportation priorities.
There are some businesses on that block of 6th Street that are concerned about the change, because there will be a reduction in street parking. This is not surprising, as separated safe cycling infrastructure is often anticipated to bring a negative impact to retail areas. This despite there being extensive evidence from around North America and the rest of the world that merchants vastly overestimate the importance of cars as the mode their shoppers use, and that safe cycling infrastructure that displaces curbside parking does not hurt adjacent businesses, and may actually be a positive.*
That said, the updates on 6th Street are going to initially be installed using temporary hardware, similar to the Room to Move installations that occurred primarily Uptown during the Pandemic summers to test out where the balance between pedestrian and car space can be adjusted. Those informed some of the more permanent installations you see now on Sixth Ave where sidewalks are being expanded. The mobility lanes will be separated by more than paint (which is required to make them safe), but in a way that we can make inexpensive changes to iterate the design to make it work better. Part of that evaluation should include impacts on the local businesses, and I hope to continue that conversation with the BIA.
The 2021 census data is starting to trickle out. The first release of data is on population and housing, which is obviously a hot topic in the Lower Mainland. This means there are a lot of news stories about what has changed since last census in 2016. However, because of the work I do, I prefer to look at the change over the full decade since 2011. This is because 2011 was the “baseline” population level that the 2040 Regional Growth Strategy for Greater Vancouver is pegged. Since every municipal Official Community Plan was developed in context of the 2040 RGA, and since we are currently updating to a new 2050 RGS, I thought it would be good to re-look at Greater Vancouver population change in comparison to the RGS with the new census data.
Regular readers (Hi Mom!) might remember me doing something like this last year with the 2020 Stats Can population estimates. As it turns out, actual counts are more accurate than estimates*EDIT – see below*, and an update is required. Here is the table of Municipalities with 2021 Census population sorted by the rate of growth since the 2011 Population used for the Regional Growth Strategy (yes, I excluded the minor Municipalities like Anmore and Electoral Area A, for simplicity, laziness, and because I can).
Where to start? Overall, the region (excepting those small Munis ignored above) grew by an overall 11% over that decade, falling far short of the predicted growth of 18%. This means there are at least 157,000 fewer people living the in Greater Vancouver than expected. Only three Municipalities added more population than the RGS expected: Maple Ridge, the City of North Vancouver and White Rock. That last one might be a surprise, but remember White Rock had the lowest predicted growth over the decade, and so their growth being on par with the regional average put it way above what was expected.
Note that North Vancouver District and Port Moody have essentially not changed in population over the last decade (though found two very different political pathways to this lack of change) and West Vancouver lost population. The overall result is that every region of greater Vancouver fell short of the predictions, excepting the Northeast corner of the regional district.
The story locally is that New West also surprisingly fell short of the RGS goals, though only by a small amount. Nonetheless our 17% growth rate was one of the fastest rates in the region. This is perhaps more remarkable when you note the only Municipalities growing at a faster rate happen to be the 3 easternmost ones – those with the greatest access to greenfield into which to sprawl.
Which bring us to the other New Westminster headline of this census release: New Westminster being touted as the major municipality with the second highest density in Canada. This is interesting, but I may argue this is a bit of an artifact of the data and political jurisdictions.
We are surely a dense urban community, which is a natural result of being the nucleus of a rapidly growing urban area for more than 150 years. Our footprint is compact (under 16 square kilometers) and we don’t have farms or large undeveloped areas of forest, having chopped most of those down about 150 years ago. Our urban form was mostly established before the automobile era, and was not extensively re-drawn with Motordom.
However, this does not make us that different from many older urban areas of Canada. But in looking at the data, we need to remember that satellite centres of Toronto or Montreal are amalgamated into one larger municipality. Shown at the same scale using Censusmapper.ca and population density data, it doesn’t immediately appear that New West (as a 79K population commuter suburb of Vancouver) is much denser than, say, the arguably comparable (population 72K commuter suburb of Montreal) neighbourhood of Verdun.
I’m not ready yet to say what it all means, as there is more data and mapping to come out. However, New Westminster is part of a region facing a long-standing housing availability crisis, and more acute housing affordability crisis. We may be bringing on supply as fast as anyone in the region (and faster than most) but at 79,000 people, we are still only 3% of the region’s population, and addressing the supply crunch is going to take more than New West can do alone. We need more action across the region.
At the same time, I am proud to say that New West is bringing in not just supply, but a diverse type of supply. Market condos are meeting the region’s most aggressive Family Friendly Housing policies. We are approving more Purpose Built Rental than we have in decades, and we have truly affordable housing options being built across the City as fast as the funding for these units becomes available. Though the value of land has shifted regionally past where rowhomes and townhouses represent “affordability” for most families, we are starting to see a big uptake on this type of build in traditionally Single Family parts of the City, and this long-standing gap in supply is finally being filled. We are also bringing this supply on while protecting the more affordable housing in the City, for the most part avoiding the mass displacement of people from existing lower-cost housing through strong policy. We have a lot of work to do, but we are on the right track.
*EDIT *: TIL: I’m completely wrong on this point. Census population estimates may actually be a more accurate count of the number of residents living in a municipality, because they account for the way the census systematically undercounts. Read more here, if you care. Fascinating!
One of the changes we have made in the City in recent years is moving the budgeting period up a little, meaning we are able to get the 5-year Financial Plan bylaw through Council in January, where we used to do it a little later in the spring. The true deadline for us to get this work done is the annual financial reporting deadline to the province that comes in May, but it is better practice for us to do this work earlier in the year so that staff can more easily develop annual work plans around an approved budget, which will hopefully lead to some efficiencies and make it easier to get things done in City Hall.
Council gave first readings to the 5-year financial plan last meeting, which means the budget is, effectively, passed. The headline (4.4% tax increase) has already been told, but I promised to write a bit more the Budget and how we got there. The 2022 budget part of the 5-Year Financial Plan looks like this:
On the revenue side, we are anticipating an overall 8.9% increase in revenues over the 2021 budget, with the increase in property tax revenue at 4.4% (after all, only about 37% of the City’s revenue comes from property taxes). As has been much discussed, New West is unique in having an electrical utility, so that $50+ Million in annual revenue always makes it look like our revenue per capita or per household is higher than other cities in the lower mainland, when we are usually about average after adjusting for the Electrical revenues, but that’s a topic for another blog post.
On the expenses side, this is where the City is spending that money. 2022 Expenses are about 4.8% higher than last year:
The biggest change this year in our General Fund (the part property taxes go toward) is to insurance rates. As always, we are subject to inflation on everything we buy, and inflation was high this year for the things cities like to buy, from fuel to lumber (our “basket of goods” is quite a bit different than the CPI). So a tax increase equaling 2.7% (out of the total 4.4%) is a combination of negotiated wage increases in the 2% range and inflationary increases in the cost of the business of running a City. On top of that, the same global insurance market situation that has caused your Condo and/or house insurance to skyrocket is also impacting the City. We will be paying $1.5 Million more on insurance in 2022 than 2021, which adds another 1.6% to the tax increase on that line item alone. We had a few service enhancements adding up to the equivalent of about another 0.8% increase, but saved some money in not operating the CGP and staff found some other savings in internal functions, meaning we effectively offset most of that 0.8% with savings.
On the utility side, we are seeing a continued trend toward increases higher than CPI, driven by increases in regional utility service costs and our need to keep the local assets maintained. I wrote about how our Utility funds work with some flow charts to show where the money goes a few years ago here, and though the numbers have gone up a bit, the effect is the same. Notably, both in the Water and Sewer we are a little ahead in both capital spending and building up our reserves than we were back when I drew those diagrams, so the financial health of the utilities is improving faster than expected, which I hope translates to a moderation in rate increases in the years ahead.
With $262M in Revenues and $216M in Expenses, we end up with a budgeted $46M increase in financial equity. But it would be premature to call that profit, because diligent readers will remember my constantly talking about our aggressive Capital Plan, which requires us to be converting that equity into capital assets, better translated as “building stuff”. The big number to note in the reconciliation of assets part of the table is the $170M in Capital expenses. it bears repeating that this is the big year for a couple of capital projects. We are budgeting $54M in 2022 towards the təməsew̓txʷ Aquatic Centre, almost $43M in upgrades to the electrical grid (including a new substation in Q’boro and replacing all of our meters), $7M in road rehab and $6M in new mobility lanes. If you want details on everything, look at the tables of planned capital expenses starting on page 64 of this report (warning – it’s a big download). It’s all there. More graphically, the $170M 2022 budgeted capital pan looks like this (with the black square representing $1M):
So, the City may plan to put $46M into reserves this year, but we also plant to take $76M out of reserves to pay for about half of that capital plan. This is based on a strategy that balances between drawing from reserves (“spending our savings”), borrowing against the asset value with long-term debt (“securing a mortgage”), and getting others to pay for it (grants form senior governments, money from developers through DCCs, etc.). I’ve written about how municipalities approach this balance in this older blog post. In practice, the balance looks like this:
So to wrap up, the City of New West is once again somewhere in the middle in the region as far as tax rate increases, has weathered the economic uncertainty of the pandemic, and is moving ahead aggressively with some long-awaited capital improvements.
I finally had a little time to condense down a bunch of thoughts and notes about the Opening Doors report that was delivered to the Provincial Government last year. I read the report when it came out last summer, and noted how it landed in an overstuffed news cycle to be almost ignored by anyone who wasn’t already a housing wonk. I might have winged a bit on line at the time, but I was not overall as critical as some of my neighbours across Tenth Ave.
Last month we held a Workshop at New West Council to talk through the report recommendations with staff support, and prepare a more formal response to the provincial government (you can watch a video of that meeting here and see the report and presentation City Staff prepared to inform that workshop here). This brings me to my regular warning that the comments that follow are mine, not the official position of New Westminster City Council or anyone else, and you might want to watch that video to see some of the more nuanced discussion other Councilors brought to the discussion.
The report needs to be put into the context of how and why it was created. It was an Expert Panel put together to provide advice to the BC and Federal Governments (delivered to the respective Ministers of Finance, notably) so it weighs heavily on things senior government can do. The Experts on the Expert Panel were, perhaps shockingly, bereft of municipal experience, and their decided expertise in finance and property development resulted in their firm application of Maslow’s Hammer. I also chagrin that the progressive *economic* quick wins proposed were the only part of the report that the senior government Ministers of Finance rushed to make comment on – and that was just to say no to them at the moment they were proposed.
But I’m already getting ahead of myself. Let’s look through the major policy directions proposed, from the municipal perspective. There were 5 major themes, and 23 recommendations, and you can read through them all if you like, but much like the conversation we had at the Council workshop, I’m going to summarize by order of government, because we all have work to do to address what is a national crisis at this point.
Things the Feds can do:
The roots of our current homelessness crisis are found in the early 1990s when Paul Martin looked at the comparatively modest housing cuts under a decade of Mulroney, and decided he could do better. The 1994 Martin budget got the federal government right out of the business of building housing. When a rapidly growing and urbanizing country like Canada goes from building 15,000-20,000 social housing units a year to less than 1,000 there are going to be devastating effects. And here we are.
So, with the Feds having the, by far, deepest pockets, it is not surprising that the one thing the Feds could do first is start using those funds to build housing. To quote directly:
the federal government make long-term funding commitments, as was done until the mid-1990s, rather than offering short-term capital grants. We recommend that the scale of these funding commitments reflects what is required for the construction of new social housing units to return to historic levels, when nearly 10% of all national housing starts were social housing units
There are also great recommendations here about making Federal Lands available for housing in high-demand communities, giving the non-profit housing sector more tax incentives, harmonizing programs that may speed housing being brought on-line (like federal/provincial/municipal building codes, fire codes, energy efficiency codes, etc.). But, still, someone has to pay for the housing that the market is not going to provide.
There is also a recommendation around incentives that stands out to me:
federal and provincial governments create a municipal housing incentive program rewarding the creation of net new housing supply wherever demand occurs… their primary purpose is to recognize municipal costs incurred in growing the housing stock and reward growth of housing supply where it is needed.
This addresses straight-on a significant downloading concern all Cities have in investing in affordable housing. Given an historic lack in Federal and Provincial funding (only beginning to be abated now), creative cities looking to be proactive have tried to leverage local powers to get housing funded. This means directly spending on housing, giving our limited land base up to affordable housing projects, or leveraging affordable housing as a community amenity attached to new market housing. This last one definitely has populist appeal, because it makes people feel we are making the “greedy developers” pay for it, but the reality is we are simply taking money that would have otherwise been used to pay for other community amenities – parks and recreation centers and libraries – and as we dip into those resources, we lose public support for growth, because we cannot provide amenities that assure a denser City is livable and full-service.
So this recommendation seems to suggest that Cities that meet housing growth targets are prioritized for federal funding. I actually hoped it would go a little further and suggest that federal infrastructure granting programs like ICIP should specifically hinge on high-demand communities like New Westminster meeting their housing targets.
Things the Province can do:
When Martin/Chretien gutted federal funding for housing in the early 1990’s, BC stayed in the business of building housing for another decade or so, until the Liberal Government of Gordon Campbell put an end to that in 2002. Though programs are now coming back in a meaningful way, we are left with a big gap of 20 years of underbuilding to our needs.
All of the points above about what the Feds can do also apply to the Province – they can provide funds, land, and incentives. Though their pool of funds is somewhat smaller, they are in the right place to note and be proactive about regional needs, and indeed the money saved by giving people safe, secure homes comes right back to the Province through savings in health care and other social support spending.
One aspect of this that is somewhat missed in the panel report is the opportunity for the Province to get back into the business of supportive housing. By the current model, the Province may provide funding to private developers to include affordable housing in their market housing proposals and/or provide funding for the not-for-profit sector to deliver and operate the housing. This is based on the neoliberal idea that government saves money by paying someone else to do something instead of doing it themselves. This is the model that brought us disastrous results when a pandemic hit the care home sector, and a model we still somewhat resist for healthcare. But this is still an operating assumption for housing that adds complication and uncertainty to the delivery of housing, and makes it harder to get housing built.
This report skates around the demand side of the equation. I know this is a politically charged discussion in a growing country with ambitious population and economic growth models, and I am not going to delve into the fanciful economics of a certain UBC landscape architect or the xenophobic ravings of familiar populists. Instead, I would suggest the place where demand management comes in is the federal and provincial taxation structures that reward the commodification of housing, while at the same time providing no benefit to renters or those who are unhoused. For whatever reasons these various structures (homeowner tax credits, capital gains exemptions for housing, etc.) were developed years and decades ago to encourage people to buy and stay in houses, they no doubt provide a perverse incentive during a housing crisis where most cannot afford the ticket to entry while taking hundreds of millions of dollars out of the government’s coffers that could be better applied to providing housing to those in need. This is the part of the Expert Panel Report that senior governments rushed to say they were not going to enact. See recommendations 21 and 23:
21.…make changes to tax programs to bring the treatment of renters and homeowners into closer alignment. This would include reviewing the impact of the capital gains tax exemption on principal residences… and extending comparable support to other forms of wealth building; 23. …phase out the Home Owner Grant. Monies saved from this should be used to fund social housing in addition to the commitments made in the 10-year plan.
Alas, the Culture of Contentment assures that no government, no matter how progressive their campaign, will be willing to address this disparity any time soon.
Another important piece missing from this report is the need to protect renters and keep people from becoming homeless in the first place. Again, the Province has made tentative steps in the right direction here, but is not where the City of New Westminster and other local governments have been asking them to be in stopping renovictions and demovictions.
Things for Local Gov’t to do?
I’m going to mix together our Regional and Local government parts here, and only note that the Expert Panel Report skips regional government altogether, though they are a significant provider of affordable housing in the Lower Mainland and other regions of the province. They are also the level of government that sets regional land use and housing policy, but we’ll get to that.
The part to remember is that this is a report to senior governments, and the question here is more “what can senior governments to do to either compel or make local governments approve more housing faster?”. This might sounds strange to many in New West, where we are meeting (and slightly exceeding) our regional growth strategy targets for housing, rental and affordable housing, and population growth. If anything, I feel people are starting to feel a bit of growth fatigue related to construction impacts. However, we are one of the few municipalities hitting these targets (as I talked about at length here), and housing demand is still far outstripping availability – so what can the province do to get those other municipalities to keep up?
Right off the bat, we know the first recommendation doesn’t work:
the B.C. government impose statutory time limits to all stages of the property development process, municipal or other, for all types of development. Similar limits imposed in Ontario and Alberta can serve as examples
Putting an artificial timeline of, say 90 days on a Rezoning application as Ontario did, fixes nothing. The arbitrary nature of the limit belies the complexity of many rezonings, ignores that even the Province cannot commit to providing referrals within that time limit (in the case of EMA freeze-and-release provisions, or MOTI approval for development near highways as only two examples), effectively undermines the ability for an elected Council to do what the Community elects them to do. It reduces a local government’s ability to evaluate and benefit from land lift related to rezoning, and undermines any principle of meaningful community engagement over development. The net effect is that most rezoning applications would be turned down, not that most would get approved faster. It does this all while adding a new layer of bureaucracy – the tribunal through which applications not meeting timeline could be appealed.
Fortunately, more of the recommendations around introducing “affordability adjustments” to the Housing Needs Reports, aligning our OCP updates with these needs reports, provincial streamlining of development permitting processes province-wide and the such, are doable, reasonable, and would likely have wide-spread buy-in by municipalities, though they may take some work on behalf of all parties.
An identified theme is that Municipal and regional housing targets actually have to come with some force. We are dealing with a regional problem, and need to solve it regionally. There are a variety of sticks and carrots the Provincial Government can apply, and a lot of funding incentives for infrastructure to better support the pressures cities face as they densify. Indeed, changing how the province incentivizes growth would also result in significant greenhouse gas reductions and reductions in the cost of many different forms of service delivery. There is a big win in here, but it would require some political courage to step into what local governments (and regional governments) see as their turf. When half the mayors in the region are elected on straight-up or veiled promises to curb growth, political battles would no doubt ensue, but a crisis like this does not allow half of the region to say “not our problem” as has been the reality for a decade. They know who they are.
There are two aspects of how Cities approve housing that the Provincial government can definitely influence, as they are regulated at least in part but Provincial regulations: how Cities finance growth, and how our permitting programs work.
On the financing side, the report includes this recommendation:
conduct a full review of local government revenue sources and spending responsibilities… includ[ing] consideration of additional or enhanced funding sources for infrastructure and amenities that are more predictable and do not rely on rezoning or the development process. Preference should be given to means that capture land value through taxation, rather than homebuilding
To frame this a bit, Municipal governments collect Development Cost Charges (“DCCs”) on new growth, Voluntary/Community Amenity Contributions (“VACs” or “CACs”), and a whole raft of different fees and changes on development. It’s a bit of a complex mess, and outside of DCCs, not particularly well regulated. This creates not just cost, but uncertainty and complexity for builders and great variances across the province and region. One recommendation would be for the Province to clean some of this up. perhaps by expanding the DCC program to make it more flexible and reduce the reliance on VACs/CACs. This sounds easy, but is actually something that would have to be addressed with great care, as the balance between community and private benefit from growth (never mind the public perception of that balance) is precarious and dynamic, and Mencken warned us about seemingly simple fixes to dynamic human problems.
The second aspect of change could be in the permitting processes themselves. Given the financing issue is managed (see above),then strategic pre-zoning takes a lot of risk away from builders, and reduces the time taken to get from planning to occupancy. This type of strategic pre-zoning probably doesn’t want to occur until we have a funding model established to assure the community knows it is getting its share of the inevitable land lift (and Cities have a way to fund the parks, playgrounds, roads, theatres and libraries that make the community livable), and stricter and clearer design control is in place, as the City will functionally be ceding much of that control when it gives away zoning. There are incremental changes Cities can make in the short term (like New West, where we have given Development Permit authority to staff without an extra trip to Council), but some major shifts in the permitting process that are recommended (like reforming the problematic Public Hearing) would require changes to provincial legislation.
We have a housing affordability crisis because we are not building enough homes to meet demand. We have a homelessness crisis because we are not building enough non-market and supportive housing to provide appropriate shelter for people who are forced out of the bottom of the market as prices rise. These are two overlapping crises that require parallel approaches to fix.
The first problem is related to a complex mix of jurisdictional and political roadblocks, some easier to overcome than others, but even with the existing legislative framework and tax structure, municipalities can build to meet demand now. some of us are. If the Regional Growth Strategy is any guide, Municipalities like the City of North Vancouver and New West have shown that the solutions are available, but some municipalities simply don’t want to take part. We need to level that playing field.
The second problem is much easier to solve. Build housing for people who cannot afford to be in the market, like this country and this province did in the decades between WW2 and Mulroney/Chretien austerity, or as the Baby Boom generation calls them, the Good Old Days. Fortunately, this easier-to-solve problem can go first, and even the most reluctant local government can’t stop it if the senior governments are committed to fixing it. As a bonus, it takes the pressure off of the harder to solve supply/demand problem of market housing. But to solve that second problem, we first need senior governments to be more honest about the goals of our economic policies, while local governments need to be more honest about whether they actually want to solve the problem.
This report, for its strengths and weaknesses, could open doors to some of those more truthful conversations.
The first week of January is when the BC Assessment Authority releases their annual report on property values, including your personal assessment and regional trend data. More often than not, this is followed by some hyperventilation on line and in the media: How the hell does this keep happening? How unaffordable can housing get? What can be done? I’ll avoid those topics in this post* and let the media and pundits answer those in the way that serves their interests best. I just want to talk about New West, assessments, and taxes, since Council is going to be talking annual property tax increases on Monday.
The City is working towards a budget with a 4.4% tax increase. I’ve written about how we got to that number, and will write more after next week’s meeting, but until then I am going to assume that is what Council is going to vote for, and use that number as a placeholder to talk about the below.
A 4.4% tax increase does NOT mean your property tax bill will go up 4.4%. It might, but it is more likely to go up a little more or a little less than that, depending on what type of home you are paying taxes on, and how its assessment compares to the average across the City.
Here are the numbers from the BC Assessment authority for the “average” property in New West:All residential properties went up 13.1 %, but Single Family Detached houses went up more than this (21%) and Condos went us much less (8.2%).Since tax increases are based on the average value, this means taxes will be going up more for most SFD, and less for most Condos. Indeed, at the current proposed rate, the average Condo may not see any increase at all.
I’m going to use fake numbers to demonstrate how this works, because that level of detail is unnecessary to make clear how this works, and complicated math makes explanation complicated. This really isn’t that complicated. However, I note there are two confounding factors I need to mention here, because they matter. The City adjusts its tax rate based on all assessed land values, and I am only dealing with residential here, and am ignoring commercial and industrial. Also, I am only dealing with the part of your property tax bill (63%) that the City sets and collects, the blue part in this pie chart:
The rest is set by the province, and the City neither has control of it nor sees the money, so I can’t talk too much about them except to note they are there.
Ok, with those caveats aside let’s imagine the City collected $100 Million in taxes last year, and the combined value of all the properties in the City was $10 Billion. The City would need to set a tax rate (called a “mill rate”) of 10 to collect those taxes. This is the math:
($10 Billion in properties) / $1000 = 10 Million; ($100 Million in taxes) / 10 Million = (mill rate of 10)
As a property owner who owns, say, a $100,000 home, you use the mill rate like this:
($100,000 property value) / 1000 = 100; 100 x (mill rate of 10) = ($1,000 in taxes)
So lets then lets assume the next year the City Council decided it needed $104.4 Million to run the City, and therefore property taxes have to go up 4.4%. If the property values didn’t change at all, this would be simple, as the Mill rate will go up 4.4%:
($10 Billion in properties) / 1000 = 10 Million. ($104.4 Million in taxes) / 10 Million = (mill rate of 10.44)
But lets imagine, instead, that the City gets a report from the BC Assessment Authority that says the combined value of all properties in the City went up by 10% over that year. That changes the math:
($11 Billion in properties) / 1000 = 11 Million. (104.4 Million in taxes) / 11 Million = (mill rate of 9.49).
Taxes went up, but the mill rate went down, because the inflation in property tax was lower than the inflation in property values. This will be the case in New West in 2021 where average values went up 13%, but taxes are only projected to go up 4.4%).
Now, we can talk about how that change in mill rate impact individual properties, becasue they do not all go up in value the same as the average. If in the last example (average property increase of 10%, tax increase of 4.4%) the property you own increases in value the same as the average, then the mill rate applies to you exactly as it does to the average, and you end up paying 4.4% more taxes. But what if your house goes up 2x as much as the average, and your neighbour’s house doesn’t go up at all? You end up paying a different amount of tax:
This will happen across New West this year. As the BC Assessment report that I mentioned in the opening showed that SFD houses went up 8% more than average of all city wide residential property values, so the 4.4% tax increase for the average SFD will be in the order of 12%. At the same time, the average Condo value increased 5% less than average, meaning that property taxes for the “average” condo should go down a little bit. If that doesn’t seem fair to you, all I can say is I didn’t invent the system, I just report it.
*(supply and demand; very unaffordable because the most comfortable are being made more comfortable through this; we can start building differently)
Addendum: The New West Record points out that the BC Assessment news release says the “typical” SFD home in New West went up 24% in value, which is a different number than the 21% they have in their Market Trends table or their interactive map (where my table above is from). Not sure what that is about, maybe a typo, maybe a mean-mode-median thing. Anyway, take the exact numbers with a grain of salt?