Building Futures in York

On Feb 4/15 I attended an Industry Conversation with York Region Municipal Mayors. Here are my take aways from the meeting.

With 100,000 people and 50, 000 jobs coming to the GTA every year, the building, land development, and professional renovation industry is supporting the growth of our region and economy.

The first questions focus on was affordable housing and the challenges that come with it. Markham is against basement apartments and wishes for above ground units and challenges the industry to provide it.

Markham has a challenge to keep infrastructure in place and being able to keep up with construction. There are fewer immigrants coming into Markham, and fewer immigrations means less cash entering the economy. To sustain the growth, Markham struggles with cost for parks, game fields, and libraries and challenges to find the physical space.

All the municipalities are complaining about the lack of funding. To continue with growth the municipalities need to expand the Transit system through the corridor, and a link to the regional transit system is required. Businesses will not grow if the people can’t get there. Growth of the transit system is limiting overall economic growth.

The municipalities have plans for growth, but no cash for infrastructure, intensifying the population without the possibility for people to commute and have proper transit.

Markham struggles with getting sufficient land for parks and for new development, suggesting working with institutions to get the park space required.

A message to the Province, the city of Toronto and regions need to get funding to meet the growth plan.

“69% is designated as green belt in the York Region, put there intentionally, to stop the sprawl”, says Mayor Barrow. “There are no white belt areas in Richmond Hill. Note from the province, the green belt will not shrink”, Barrow continues, “the province wants it to grow. No politician is willing to change the green belt. Mayor Barrow continues, “I feel that eventually there will have to be some give and take, the Province will have to accept the fact they can’t have everything.
Relocate some green space outside of Richmond Hill, say Bowmanville.” Mayor Barrow states, “The amount of green space in Richmond Hill makes it increasing difficult to build.”

All municipalities feel the OMB pushes policy first and not looking at site specific scenarios.
Development charges for builders are increasing. Eventually reaching a point where builders can no longer afford to build.
Rules around what can go be submitted to the OMB needs to be looked at. If the official plan covers it why go to the board?
The local government now provide a lot more infrastructure then in the past. This change represents 38 to 67 percent municipal owned today. “The increase in development charges is required to cover infrastructure costs”, says the Mayors. GTA development charges have increased 357% between 2004 and 2014.

The final question was focused on renovations and the city being able to better serve the community and provide a clear process to acquire building permits. All municipalities are now making information available online, improving web based communication, and Markham has extended business hours. All reducing the amount of paper involved in the process. A “Make It Happen Task Force” exists in Markham adding technology to the process.
All the municipalities believed they are offering good service. However they fail to see how the community perceives them.
General feedback from readers are welcomed as there seemed to be a great deal of frustration with the lack of good city service.

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3 comments on “Building Futures in York
  1. Dan says:

    After reading this information, it leaves me feeling very frustrated. My only disappointment is that the same people were elected and this is because the majority of the RH population don’t have to deal with the city for permits and don’t see the bureaucracy that is going on. Building permits are impossible in Richmond Hill, in fact it is simply a way for the city to make extra money. You will need to pay several times for the same permit as the city will forget something and you will have to get more info and pay again for the same permit. For all thinking in getting a permit, beware. My experience and from those I know who had to deal with the city have but negative comments about their experience. I wish someone with half a brain from the City of Richmond Hill would write up clear policies and rules how to obtain permits with a clear time lines. If anyone at the city says they do have policies, this simply is not true or simply not followed. Conservation and the City do not work together and it is extremely difficult in getting anything done. If at all possible I try to avoid dealing with the city. I think a campaign against the city regarding their approach on permits would be warranted. I was even thinking in having The Market Place form CBC to an investigation on the corruption on this very subject. There is a lot of discrimination and costs to innocent people of RH because of the cities disorganization. Good luck to anyone dealing with the city of Richmond Hill.

  2. David says:

    Without getting into the issues of the planning department in Richmond Hill, I would say it is difficult and expensive to add on to an older property in Richmond Hill.

    Repeated residents of old Richmond Hill, have told me that very expensive building permits, site plans, tree studies and other demands take months and months and do not reflect a few hundred square foot addition. It is cheaper to tear the house down almost.

    People in that situation may comment. It may be interesting to note that building permit fees went up by 35% at least in the last 4 years.

    The Town charges over $3,000 to provide a permit to build or place a shed in your backyard legally to put your lawnmower.

    How these charges improve neighborhoods is anyone’s guess.

  3. admin says:

    Thank you for the comments, I too have talked with many people frustrated with the building permit process in Richmond Hill. Many have given up due to the complexity and high costs. Others sweat it out for 3 to 4 years. This seems to be a common story.

    I am surprised the city does not realize the grief they cause. In our case we have an existing property, we just want to renovate. The area is developed what’s the point of all the assements. I talked with the CEO of the TRCA at Building Futures and we discussed the situation we are in. He was very concerned as to why it took so long and if the TRCA was in any way holding up the process. We checked and the TRCA had been very reasonable and fairly quick to process our requirements. Yet once the information is sent to the city it seems to take forever.