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Legislation introduced to streamline delivery of homes, services, infrastructure

November 7, 2023 at 12:48 pm  BC, News, Politics, Provincial

As part of work underway to deliver more homes for people faster, the Province has introduced new legislation to reduce construction delays and streamline processes to fund key services, infrastructure and amenities for growing communities.

“As we take decisive action to deliver the kinds of homes people in B.C. are looking for, we’re also making sure communities and builders have the efficient and transparent tools they need to plan for growth with certainty,” said Ravi Kahlon, Minister of Housing. “By doing this, we’re not just building homes for people, but also more sustainable, well-planned communities.”

Currently, some high-growth municipalities use the rezoning process to negotiate with homebuilders for funding needed for amenities to support the growth and vibrancy of their communities. These negotiation processes can be drawn out, delaying construction and adding additional and sometimes unexpected building costs. These associated delays and costs can affect people buying and renting these homes.

The new legislation, if passed, supports the introduction of Bill 44 to allow upfront zoning, which will facilitate an increase in housing supply in communities throughout B.C. The legislation will require local governments to shift their planning process to an upfront framework, pre-zone land to meet their housing needs, and reduce the use of current rezoning processes.

As local governments shift to more upfront planning and zoning, the proposed legislation provides high-growth communities with a more efficient and transparent development-finance tool called an amenity cost charge (or ACC). Instead of amenity costs and agreements coming together during the rezoning stage, this tool is part of the upfront planning process, giving builders and municipalities a better, clearer and more transparent understanding of costs associated with a housing project from the start.

“UDI is encouraged by this new legislation, which aims to make development charges more transparent and predictable,” said Anne McMullin, president and CEO, Urban Development Institute (UDI). “Combined with the zoning measures announced last week, these are some of the most substantial changes to the development approval process in decades.

The legislation also makes changes to development cost charges and development cost levies (in the Vancouver Charter). Development cost charges are an existing legislative tool that allow local governments to collect funds from home builders to help pay for specific, core infrastructure needs, such as drainage, water, sewer, and roads, before a development is built. Changes through this legislation will allow local governments the flexibility to allocate funds collected from homebuilders to support additional local services and infrastructure: fire protection facilities (fire halls), police facilities and solid waste facilities that support new homes. Prior to this amendment, one of the only options to recover these costs was through property taxes. 

Additionally, cost-shared provincial highway projects, such as interchanges and highway exits that benefit the community, such as accessing a new housing project, are included. For example, if passed, the legislation will allow a municipality to use development cost charges to help pay for a portion of an interchange required to access a new housing project for a large housing project adjacent to a provincial highway. Previously, this would have been paid for by the municipality, often through an increase in property taxes or at the expense of other local infrastructure priorities.

“As we look to tackle B.C.’s housing crisis and build more homes for people, we need to make sure communities have the tools they need to fund these services in a more predictable way,” said Anne Kang, Minister of Municipal Affairs. “Through up-ront funding agreements with builders and developers, local governments will continue to fund and deliver the services people need with more certainty and clarity.”

This legislation will apply to both the Local Government Act and Vancouver Charter and builds on the Province’s recent work to support local governments with the delivery of infrastructure projects necessary to enable community growth. This includes the $1-billion Growing Communities Fund launched in February 2023 and the recently announced $51 million in capacity funding to support local governments’ work to update their processes to meet new requirements to accelerate approval processes and build the homes people need.

Quotes: 

Patrick Johnstone, mayor, New Westminster –  

“Cities like New Westminster want to see new homes built to address the housing crisis, while funding the wide variety of infrastructure needed to support the new residents of those homes at the same time. I’m happy to see the Province recognize this challenge by ensuring tools are available to local governments so we can plan and fund the fire halls, community centres, and other vital amenities that make our growing communities livable.”

Nathan Pachal, mayor, Langley –

“As we know, we need to build more housing faster than ever. At the same time, municipalities need to collect fees to build the infrastructure to support new housing. The changes proposed by the province help address some of the challenges with our current system, including increasing transparency to builders and speeding up the housing approval process.”

Marianne Alto, mayor, Victoria –

“Recent provincial policies have enabled accelerated home building, which in turn will demand increased municipal infrastructure. This legislation recognizes that, and ensures local governments have the tools they need to fund the infrastructure, and community amenities and services needed to ensure neighbourhood livability. I welcome ongoing provincial commitments to expedite housing, while supporting municipalities as they address the challenges of growth.”

Ross Siemens, mayor, Abbotsford –

“As a city, we are committed to doing our part in implementing housing solutions for our growing city, but recognize there is a corresponding need to update important infrastructure and community amenities to support integrated growth. The City of Abbotsford is encouraged the Province is expanding and establishing these new tools, which will help municipalities to fund the additional police and fire rescue services, highway improvements and other critical upgrades needed to meet the demands of this new growth.”

Bridgitte Anderson, president and CEO, Greater Vancouver Board of Trade –

“This new legislation is a welcome step toward more certainty and clarity that will improve the timelines to build the housing we need. So long as fees remain modest to not impact development, replacing community amenity contributions and creating a more proactive and comprehensive framework to plan, build, and fund growth is a positive move.”

Trevor Koot, CEO, BC Real Estate Association –

“The need to reform development financing was a key finding of the Development Approvals Process Review report, and the BC Real Estate Association is supportive of efforts on the part of government to bring more clarity, transparency and predictability to the fees collected by local government from builders of new housing.”

Trish Mandewo, councillor, City of Coquitlam; president, Union of British Columbia Municipalities –

“The legislation introduced today will assist local governments in funding the capital costs of critical facilities for protective services and solid-waste facilities that were not previously eligible. The new legislative tool for amenity cost charges provides more certainty in collecting needed funds for some essential amenities like day cares, recreational facilities and libraries.”

Learn More: 

To learn more about small-scale, multi-unit housing legislation, visit: https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2023PREM0062-001706  

To learn more about local government housing initiatives, visit: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/housing-tenancy/local-governments-and-housing/housing-initiatives

To learn more about government’s new Homes for People action plan, visit: https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2023HOUS0019-000436  

To learn about the steps the Province is taking to tackle the housing crisis and deliver affordable homes for British Columbians, visit: https://strongerbc.gov.bc.ca/housing/ 

For more information about B.C. legislation, visit: https://workingforyou.gov.bc.ca/legislation

A backgrounder follows. 

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