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.