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Newmarket mayor pushes for rental, affordable housing help in development charges

Large apartments set for biggest increase in charges at 31%
March 4, 2022
Joseph Quigley

Newmarket’s mayor is concerned a proposed hike in development charges for larger apartments may further discourage developers from building them, and is urging that affordability be considered in a new bylaw.

York Region is updating its development charges bylaw, presented to regional council today, March 3. The new version proposes to increase residential development charges by more than 17 per cent, with the greatest increases on apartments over 700 square feet, at 31 per cent.

But Newmarket Mayor John Taylor asked for more information on affordability measures other jurisdictions are taking with their development charges. He further questioned putting more charges on apartments and said there is not enough rental housing being built.

“We’re not producing family sized-rental, or condos, and increasing (charges for) over 700-square-foot apartments by 31 per cent is just another barrier,” he said, adding he expects demand for large rental units to increase dramatically in the next 20 years. “We’re going to need (large apartments) desperately, and they’re just not happening. It’s happening here in Newmarket, there’s condos going up and (they're) full of tiny units because they’re investor units.”

The development charge rates for apartments are expected to increase from the current $38,382 up to $50,280 per unit, according to a staff report. Increases are also coming for single and semi-detached dwellings ($65,607 to $77,973), multiple-unit dwellings ($52,814 to $64,792) and smaller apartments below 700 square feet ($28,042 to $32,702).

Development charges are regulated through provincial legislation, which provides the calculation rules. Staff said the differences between the dwelling types are based on occupancy levels, with large apartments increasing in average occupancy by 12 per cent under the bylaw.

The charges are a cost recovery tool for growth-related infrastructure. Staff noted current rates for single and semi-detached dwellings are 4.6 per cent of the average price for a new home in York Region in 2021.

“We hear it all the time, (development charges) are an onerous aspect on the cost of a new home, and one of the ways you can make homes affordable is by lowering the DC,” Markham Regional Councillor Don Hamilton said. “I believe ours are reasonable.”

Acting commissioner of finance Kelly Strueby said it would be unlikely to shift development charges on those large apartments without drawing from the tax base.

The draft bylaw does include an adjustment meant for rental housing, with a four-storey minimum requirement removed for purpose-built rental buildings to get a development charge deferral.

Taylor said affordability should be thought of as a spectrum, with housing types provided for all ranges of income.

The demand for “rental is going to be disproportionately going up,” he said. “We’re not going to be able to keep up almost, and we need to provide more."

A public meeting will be held on the bylaw March 24, with a final report and approval scheduled for May 26.