Bill 23 could cost Kitchener, Cambridge and Waterloo tens of millions of dollars

Ford says Bill 23 wouldn't harm municipal finances, speaks on promise to fund Toronto shortfall

The three largest cities in Waterloo Region would be left with a budget shortfall of millions of dollars over the five to 10 years as a result of the Ontario government’s Bill 23, according to figures provided by municipal officials.

The Ford government’s Bill 23: More Homes Built Faster Act was introduced on Oct. 25. Among other things, it would curtail the fees municipalities can charge developers for the cost of building city infrastructure to support a new community.

Garett Stevensen, the interim director of planning at the City of Kitchener, says staff have been ballparked the cost of Bill 23 to sit at around $40 million over 10 years.

“That includes hard infrastructures — things like sewers and pipe, growth-related studies and land acquisitions to provide soft services like a fire station in the community centre,” he said.

In Waterloo, city officials have pegged the developer fees to be somewhere around $23 to $31 million over the next five years, which would be a reduction of around 35 per cent.

“These are conservative figures since they don’t include operating impacts nor do they include any cost assumptions related to the cost of creating more attainable housing,” a Waterloo spokesperson told Global News in an email.

A spokesperson for Cambridge said that if Bill 23 were around over the past five years, it would have cost the city around $18 million in revenue.

The spokesperson for Waterloo also noted that this presents an issue on how the funding shortfall can be made up.

“Municipalities have limited funding tools. Unless funded by the Province, Bill 23 will shift certain growth costs to the local tax base,” they wrote. “We could be looking at significant increases to municipal taxes and utility rates to off-set the funding shortfalls created by Bill 23 which will have a negative impact on affordability for existing homeowners.”

Stevensen noted that Kitchener is still trying to look at options it will need to use to make up for the lost revenue but he also pointed out that there are many other issues that will be created by the bill.

“Bill 23 makes changes beyond development charges,” he said. “I know that’s what has been resonating, but there’s also changes to other aspects of the natural heritage system, the cultural heritage designation process in Kitchener and in other facets as well.”

In the past, Kitchener would review many of the properties on a potential heritage list if there was a proposal for redevelopment but now it would have to do so almost right away.

“So we have a heritage inventory, which are property that we believe may have additional heritage values that we haven’t fully reviewed,” the planner explained.

“The changes as proposed and as approved through Bill 23 is that we have to review every single property inventory within the next two years to determine whether or not we’re going to designate.”

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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