Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows Community Services is building 96-units of affordable housing, with the help of BC Housing. (THE NEWS/Files)

Maple Ridge removes proposed affordable housing requirement

Looking at development fees to pay for social housing fund

Maple Ridge council has scratched the idea of allowing developers to add affordable rental apartments, in return for being allowed to increase the density of a complex.

The concept was part of the changes proposed to the zoning bylaw – and instead could be replaced by the city instead seeking more cash contributions, that would go into a city fund dedicated for affordable housing.

Council made the decision at its June 4 workshop.

Coun. Gordy Robson said last week that it would be too difficult for the city to track or monitor, of rental units were still affordable, years after a complex has been built.

“Administrating that would be somewhat of a nightmare,” he said.

Staff are now researching different ways developers could contribute financially to a city affordable housing fund that would be used to buy land for affordable housing projects.

The fund would allow the city to buy property, then lease it out to non-profit groups that would construct affordable housing for whatever social group is in need.

Robson is proposing that developers pay a flat fee of $1,000 for each unit they build. That money then would go into the social housing fund. As well, the city also could charge a percentage of the increased value of the development that results from the greater number of units. Robson said that percentage could work out to between $5,000 and $15,000 per extra unit that’s allowed as part of the density bonusing.

It would be a sizable contribution by everyone towards a social housing program,” Robson said. He said the federal government has said that once the city has the land, it can reach agreements with social agencies to provide the type of housing the city wants. “So they will target whatever population we tell them whatever population we tell them it has to be targeted for.”

But nothing’s been decided yet, Robson added.

Developers already pay community amenity contributions that have been in place since 2016. Those charges require developers to pay $5,100 for each single family home, $4,100 for each townhouse and $3,100 for each condo or apartment built.

Money from community amenity contributions has been used to help pay for new recreation projects in the city. But the city’s policy also allows that money to be used for affordable housing, as well as for recreation.

Robson is opposed to that however.

“I look at it, if we take money out of the current CACs, we’re actually taking them out of future recreation programs for kids. So I don’t want to give up a nickel. But we may have to compromise,” Robson said.

Coun. Ahmed Yousef supports the decision. “For me, the piece that was always missing was the management of these units. How do we know that these rental units, that allocated, are actually going to be low rent units …that are truly allocated to people that need them.”

He noted that Maple Ridge’s current CACs are lower than other cities and that any possible increases could be allocated to housing.

Robson said that he would like to see the new fee schedule in place in time to capture major new developments about to get underway in the downtown.

Earlier this year, council decided against a housing agreement that would have provided 13 market rental apartments and three affordable rental apartments as part of density bonus for a 153-unit condo development on 227th Street.

Instead, council agreed to accepting $256,000 in cash in lieu, with the money going into an affordable housing fund.

Council voted on the proposal Tuesday following a March 19 public hearing which drew 11 speakers, with some questioning the decision to opt for a cash-in-lieu payment of $256,000 instead of a housing agreement requiring 16 rental apartments for 20 years, three of which would have been affordable housing.

Instead, council agreed to accepting $256,000 in cash in lieu, with the money going into an affordable housing fund.

Read more: Maple Ridge proceeds with new condos for 227th Street

Robson agreed that amount was too little but there was no policy in place to force developers to pay anything.

According to a staff report, CitySpaces Consulting in 2018, says that other cities allow high densities or greater number of units in a complex, in return for that developer building some affordable housing.

CitySpaces also recommended that Maple Ridge also require affordable housing or cash in lieu, in return for increasing the density of a complex. It also said the city should clarify the amount of money from CACs that should be allotted to affordable housing.

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