LAST WEEK, at Kamloops City Council, Mayor Ken Christian said “If this is a choice between green or growth I’m gonna go with growth.“ I completely disagree.
Green cities are the most vibrant, liveable, walkable and transit friendly. Green cities have higher densities, and connected neighbourhoods. Think Barcelona, Utrecht or Copenhagen. Urban sprawl is not the growth Kamloops should aspire to. Growth and green are both possible.
And the City of Kamloops has a simple tool to help make both green and growth happen: DCCs.
For B.C. local governments, like the City of Kamloops, Development Cost Charges (DCCs) are one of the most important ways money is raised to pay for infrastructure. Specifically, infrastructure related to growth.
Every year, the City of Kamloops collects about $7.1 million in DCCs from local developers and builders.
Communities across B.C. collect DCCs. The premise is, that as a community grows, infrastructure such as upgrades to traffic lights, bike lanes, and water reservoirs that are used by the entire community need to be added. The upgrades don’t need to be done for one new house or two. But over time, as a city grows, infrastructure needs to be upgraded and expanded.
DCCs are a common pool of money that builders and developers pay into, that a city uses to pay for community infrastructure.
In Kamloops, every new single family house that is built is charged on average $11,287 in DCCs. For two-family homes, an average of $8,416 is collected per unit. For multi-family residential, builders pay from about $4,600 to $8,400 per unit, depending on the density.
So every new house that is built in Kamloops has an extra cost tagged on because of DCCs.
Commercial, institutional and industrial new construction all pay as well. Commercial is at $88.16/m2, institutional is at $104.10/m2, and industrial is $94,369/ha plus a sewer levy.
Now it is entirely true that as a city grows, more infrastructure is needed. But what isn’t true is that the same amount of infrastructure is needed at the centre of the city as at the edge.
Sprawl is costly.
It may cost the same to build or expand a water reservoir in the centre of a city as at the edge. But it costs far more to pump water out to the outer edges of Westsyde, Barnhartvale or Juniper than to pump water up Munro Street in the Sagebrush Neighborhood, or to Schubert Drive in North Kamloops.
There’s more infrastructure to pump the sewage back from the outer edges of the city as well, be it Pineview, Dufferin, or outer Brocklehurst.
And sprawl has a cost in needing longer roads, more upgraded intersections, longer bike paths and more.
In Kamloops, the city recognizes this, somewhat. In the core (City Centre, Lower Sahali, and the North Shore), low-density, multi-family residential, the DCC’s per unit are $7,647. Outside of the core, the DCCs are $8,416. Medium density units have DCCs of $6,944 in the core, and $7,665 outside the core. For high density, it’s $4,598 and $5,078 for core versus non-core buildings.
The City of Kamloops gives builders (and ultimately homeowners) an incentive to locate multi-family housing in the core of Kamloops.
But when it comes to single family homes and duplexes, the city charges the same price across the board. The DCCs in the centre of the city are exactly the same as in Barnhartvale, Pineview or outer Westsyde as they are for downtown, Lower Sahali or the North Shore.
There is no incentive for builders to create new single family or duplex housing in the centre of the city. Even though it is clear that infrastructure costs more the further out you go, there is no surcharge for sprawl.
The City of Kamloops is ignoring one of the best tools for reducing sprawl: price.
City Council has a chance to support growth and green. The DCCs are scheduled to be updated in 2019/20. City staff will sit down with builders to come up with agreed costs for future infrastructure.
Now is the time for City of Kamloops council to say yes to both green and growth by increasing the incentives for more housing of all sorts in the centre of the city. It’s time DCCs for single-family and duplexes are reduced for the core of Kamloops.
Nancy Bepple is a former City councillor of Kamloops with a strong interest in community building projects.