Maple Ridge moving ahead with a healthy hike in development fees

City has lost millions of dollars by not raising fees before

Maple Ridge council has given third reading to a 18-per-cent hike in development cost charges next year, the fees developers pay to the city so it can put in the roads and sewers that are required for new buildings.

The increase is the first in a decade, which caused fees and revenue to the city, to remain stagnant, while land and house prices skyrocketed.

However, the city now will review, and maybe raise, such charges more frequently. “We’ve asked staff this time to bring back a yearly touchpoint,” said Coun. Bob Masse. “So it shouldn’t happen again that we end up lagging way behind.”

He admitted that Maple Ridge missed out on a lot of money by not raising DCCs or implementing another the new charge, the community amenity contribution, a fee paid for each lot in order to raise money for parks and rec facilities.

The money the city collects from development charges can only be spent on water and sewer lines, roads and parks. And if enough isn’t collected in charges to pay for infrastructure, the general taxpayer will have to cover the cost.

Most cities had community amenity charges in place when Maple Ridge first started charging its community amenity contributions in 2016.

Those contributions now sit at $5,100 per single family lot or $4,100 per townhouse or $3,100 per apartment.

Council though at its Dec. 12 meeting, also decided to charge community amenity contributions for downtown housing projects which so far had been exempt, in order to spark development in the town centre. The money so raised from those downtown projects will be put into an affordable housing reserve fund that will be used by the city to kickstart affordable housing projects.

Masse said there’s enough demand now in the area to ask developers to pay those fees. A staff recommendation suggested charging only half that amount.

“We don’t think the amenity charge is going to affect whether people are going develop there (in the downtown) or not. The price of condos has gone up $100,000 in the last few years, so $5,000 is not going to make a difference,” said Coun. Gordy Robson.

He said Maple Ridge is “light years” behind other cities in its development cost charges. Only Pitt Meadows charges less.

Robson added that when he was mayor between 2005 and 2008, there was a proposal to raise DCC and implement amenity charges but it didn’t get through. He said that first year that the amenity contributions were charged in 2016 they raised about $4 million.

“It’s kind of how the plan was to supposed to evolve,” Masse said of the community amenity charges.

The proposal to increase DCCs will also have to be reviewed by the Ministry of Community Services.

The proposed increases would see development cost charges for a single family home built in a suburb rise from about $19,000 to $22,470. Costs for building single family homes in the downtown would take a steeper jump – by 34 per cent – as the city creates only one development cost charge for single family homes.

For townhouses, development cost charges would jump from $121 per square metre to $134, about an 11-per-cent hike.

Metro Vancouver is also tripling its development cost charges next May, with those fees going from $1,700 up to $5,400 for single family homes in Maple Ridge. Meanwhile, TransLink is adding a development cost charge of its own, about another $2,100 per lot, taking effect in 2020.

Council isn’t considering raising community amenity contributions, but a study says those could jump by almost $1,000. But that is not being contemplated.The report also points out that land prices have jumped by 90 per cent in the past four years.

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