Take one look at donors to our mayor’s last campaign and you see his awkward challenge.
The list is richly populated with developers and architects. Indeed, Dave Bronconnier hit his campaign limit and had a $316,000 surplus.
Now he must re-negotiate city agreements with developers. Contracts expire next year, but talks are underway.
The agreement works like this. The city gives developers permits. Developers make handsome profits, but agree to provide city infrastructure like sidewalks, sewer lines, roads, and even contribute to libraries and recreation centres.
Developers want an infrastructure break. “We are seeing a drastic fall off in new community development,” says Mike Flynn, executive director of the Urban Development Institute which represents home builders, “Access to capital is severely restricted, if it’s there at all.”
The UDI is also none too happy with the city’s new PlanIt document calling for more density, and favouring multi-family homes. UDI argues people want to buy single-family homes. “What the general public doesn’t understand is that development takes enormous risk. There’s a perception that developers are rolling around in cash.”
It will be a test of the mayor’s ability to manage his relationships with his construction supporters, and re-engineer the city toward housing density.
Mayor Bronconnier is showing strength in saying that it makes sense for growth to pay for itself.
Where will the developer capital come from?
In my community alone, we have two projects on hold. Residents received notice that no developer would build anything at Lion’s Park LRT, a so-called transit oriented development site. Secondly, the city proceeded with community consultation for a new EMS station on Memorial Drive thinking it had the province’s full approval and cash — but that’s now on hold, too.
Whether the mayor holds the line remains to be seen. The city can help developers with infrastructure costs if there’s a good social cause to do so. Multi-family developments are getting a lot of permit encouragement. Developers need to adapt and find new ways of green building that consumers want.
But recognize the cost of housing will rise if supply is restricted and inner city cost is high. We’ll see the residential strength of the Airdries, Okotoks, and Cochranes grow.
Witness the situation on the island of Montreal where thousands live in nice communities off-island and commute in over bridges, use city services, and leave. There’s always discussion about how to tax them.
Let’s make sure we get a city that the average person can afford.
– Janice Paskey teaches journalism at Mount Royal College, serves on her community association board and is a proud mom to two boys; firstname.lastname@example.org.