Now is the time for the County of Haliburton, and the four lower-tier municipalities, to seriously consider implementing development charges.
In May 2019, the province launched a five-point plan to increase the supply of housing. It included a mechanism to make the cost of development more predictable.
The More Homes, More Choices Act 2019 and COVID-19 Economy Recovery Act changed a bunch of statutes, including the Planning Act and the Development Charges Act.
The result is a new and improved funding framework for municipalities to make the cost of building more predicable (for example, my development needs a turning lane and it is going to cost X amount of dollars); and erect new housing faster to provide more housing options.
Basically, townships can help pay for local infrastructure in our growing communities via development charges, community benefit charges and parkland dedication.
Most importantly, municipalities have a Sept. 18, 2022 deadline to change to the new framework.
Former County planner, Charlsey White got the ball rolling in the spring of 2019. County council included $50,000 for a development charges study in the 2019 budget with a plan to release an RFP. It’s been shelved ever since.
Consequently, no local government body now collects development charges but they can apply them on a new development to help pay for the capital costs of infrastructure to support new growth.
Development charges are discretionary. Municipalities can choose whether to use them and, if they are used, which services or infrastructure they want to include from an extensive list of eligible services, such as water supply; storm water drainage and control; specified services related to a highway; electrical power; transit; waste diversion; policing; fire protection; ambulance; library boards; long-term care; parks and rec; public health; child care and early years programs; and housing and emergency preparedness.
All the municipalities have to do is pass a bylaw to set development charges for different types of development. First, though, a municipality must prepare a development charges background study as set out in legislation.
We urge our townships to get the ball rolling now as they’ll likely need outside help as municipalities have to calculate development charges separately for each eligible service, or class of service, detailed in their development charges bylaw.
Community benefits charges are another option but likely would not be that beneficial locally since they are aimed at developments with 10 or more residential units and five or more storeys. The parkland dedication is also likely not to be used as we shouldn’t have to fight for parkland as our County grows.
However, the time for development charges is long past due in the Highlands.
While they’re at it, municipal staff and councillors should begin to think about a municipal accommodation tax or MAT on rental revenues. This will tie in nicely with work about to get underway on a short-term rental review.
In many parts of the province, short-term rental operators must collect and remit a four per cent municipal accommodation tax on rental revenues. So, if there is a complaint that 10 people are squished into a two-bedroom cottage and taxing the septic, the MAT could pay for a municipal bylaw officer to go and check it out rather than coming on the backs of taxpayers. On the same subject, it’s time for some serious consideration of short-term rental licensing fees.
Prior to the pandemic, and certainly since, we’ve seen growth put added pressure on our County’s infrastructure. However, there are ways for the growth to give back.