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Vancouver’s community amenity contributions: Making density livable? Or making housing unaffordable?

April 24th, 2012 · 108 Comments

Nothing like talking about how to make housing more affordable to get people going on everything they think is wrong with the world.

One target in the talks: Vancouver’s community-amenity contributions — that money the city asks developers to give back to the city when their land is rezoned to allow them to build more on it than the previous zoning. For about the last year, developers have been grumbling about this practice in Vancouver, even as other municipalities are starting to extract it as well to pay for community services.

Architect/development consultant Michael Geller took a run at this in a Vancouver Sun news story here.

Former city planner Brent Toderian swings back at one of Geller’s main arguments in this message, which he’s sent out to various people:

The main thing to be refuted, is the notion that municipal costs “just
get added onto the price”. Do private sector costs get added on?
Marketing fees? Design fees? No, they get factored into land price
(bringing land price down, as it should be), get dealt with thru
contingencies in the budget it they are higher than expected, or they
dip into profits (usually beyond the 15%). By definition they can’t
just be added to the price, as people will only pay what supply and
demand will determine the value to be. Costs affect profit (especially
if they’ve overpaid for land) and land cost (if they’ve paid a
reasonable price), and viability in weaker markets, NOT price.

This notion, I believe, is a campaign to have ordinary people turn
against public benefits by suggesting they are contributing to
unaffordability. And its working to some degree – amazingly I’m
hearing some ordinary people saying that public benefits should be
waived. Not private sector costs, like high marketing fees in this
city. Only public costs going to the commonwealth. When i remind them
such fees pay for rental and social housing, heritage, parks, daycare,
culture, etc – many of the things that make density livable and
diverse, they usually change their mind, or say something like
“perhaps taxes should be raised instead.” The whole debate is based on
the premise that CAC’s get passed on to buyers. They don’t. This
campaign should be refuted.

As an aside, not sure where they got CAC’s at 85%. Range is typically 70-80%.

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