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Home Buying, Market Intelligence, Real Estate News | April 26, 2023

Metro Vancouver initiates study on the costs of neighborhood densification as BC government plans to enforce provincial zoning codes to intensify single-family home communities

The study will investigate the expenses of providing infrastructure and services for three different types of housing, including development in existing urban areas, new suburban apartments on “green meadows,” and reconstruction of existing quarters. The provincial government aims to implement infill housing, where a single-family home is transformed into a multi-unit structure or converted into townhouses through a “country assembly,” which local authorities have failed to execute. Eric Aderneck, senior planner in the Division of Regional Planning and Housing Services, will provide insights on the associated costs of different housing types.

When a neighborhood becomes more dense, it must support increased demand for services such as sewer and road maintenance, as well as police, fire, and community services to accommodate a larger population. The question arises as to who should bear the costs and whether such a plan is practical, according to some mayors.

Eric Aderneck’s study, as reported to Metro Vancouver’s regional planning committee on April 14, will analyze the “hard” and “soft” capital and operating costs of municipal and regional infrastructure/services, including roads, water, sanitation, sewerage, parks, and local government services such as recreation, police, and fire brigade, for various housing types, densities, and locations. Aderneck will compare how different development models impact property taxes, utilities, and other revenues on a per-unit or per-capita basis.

Andy Yan, an urban planner and program director for the urban program at Simon Fraser University, believes the study will likely offer essential baseline data on the fees required for development and community facilities. With increased density in neighborhoods across the region, there will be significant physical transportation and social implications, and some cities will adapt better than others. Furthermore, as the population grows and climate change and earthquakes become more prevalent, it is necessary to have the appropriate infrastructure in place. Yan emphasizes that it is preferable to conduct these studies rather than make assumptions.

During this month’s Union of BC Municipalities meeting, cities in BC that have already implemented “soft density” or “missing center” plans, allowing for the redevelopment of traditional single-family homes to include multi-layered units such as duplexes, triplexes, and quadplexes or secondary suites, presented their experiences.

Aderneck has shared links to other jurisdictions’ studies and media reports on the same topic.

A recent report from the City of Saskatoon stated that infill development is cost-effective when existing infrastructure has unused capacity and can result in improved transit utilization. However, it warns that developers may find fewer obstacles when developing new tracts of land.

In 2016, an Australian study reported by ABC News found that the cost to the government for providing greenfield infrastructure, including roads, water, communications, electricity, health, education, and emergency services, was $150,390 compared to $55,830 for infill sites.

Metro Vancouver has an urban containment boundary that restricts greenfield development unless a clear majority of board members approves changes. The study does not compare service costs and revenues by community within the region. Instead, each town hall should be responsible for determining the impact of state regulations on their costs and revenues. The study will also recommend no Development Cost Charges (DCC) and Community Charges (CAC).

The City of Kelowna’s infill housing program website provides cost estimates for its city. Each new unit for DCC can cost between $20,000 and $50,000, and new homes must also pay for upgrades to sewer and water lines, sidewalks, and street lighting.

Originally written by Victoria Fetcher for Canada Today.


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