Each week, leading up to the April 24 Mission mayoral by-election, the Record will be asking each candidate a question and publishing their replies. (Candidates were asked to keep answers to less than 300 words)
QUESTION 2: Mission is experiencing a development boom. How should council balance increasing growth, the need for infrastructure upgrades, and providing services to a community resistant to further tax increases?
Urgent – the new strains of Covid-19 are serious so I pray each and every voter order a mail in ballot and send in a Covid safe vote.
I promise to be the hardest working mayor for the 585 days I plan to be mayor.
The critical decisions for council during this pandemic are detailed in life works of political economist John Maynard Keynes advocating for increases in government spending and lower taxes to stimulate consumer spending used to pull the global economy out of the great depression and 2008 recession. As mayor, I promise to lower taxes. I will lower taxes for all principal property owners of Mission and all owners supplying low rental units (units below $100 per square foot of space) and in addition I will provide tax relief for all owners that have been significantly affected by Covid-19. If I consider the current tax system as a four-tier system, no taxes for churches and nonprofits, two levels of grants and full tax – I will make an eight-tier system allowing owners to have more money in their pockets.
The work of council shall be to approve development triggering immediate spending on construction of housing units combined with strategic government spending at all levels to stimulate the economic engine so we can provide services to the community such as the expansion of health services, 24 hour public washrooms, better quality water, environmental projects and greater security for families and single women. I will create a new union security force for young adults wanting to be fire persons or police officers to aid store owners with theft issues, prevent intoxicated drivers and get people home safely.
To quote Keynes, decision makers “…must be rightly oriented in their minds and hearts to the moral issues”.
We can’t stop the boom, but we can handle it in a balanced and sustainable way. There are four main ways we can accomplish this. We need to promote commercial and industrial development, not just residential. The mill rates for business lands are higher than for residential users, so each new work site means more local employment and lower taxes for homeowners. I’ll support our Economic Development Committee’s plan to strengthen a reputation of being “open-for-business.”
We need to enhance our relationships with Fraser Health and other levels of government so that we can more readily partner in delivering infrastructure and public services, such as healthcare, sewage and cellphone coverage. These days, it takes a great deal of expertise to root out sources of funding and to draft effective proposals. I will support our municipal staff in honing these skills.
When we offer developers “density bonuses” – such as adding a floor to an apartment building or a unit to a complex – we can ask for larger community amenity contributions and in-kind amenities. Communities like Port Moody have successfully used this approach to build theatres and fire halls and so can we. We’ll get less sprawl, more affordable housing options, and revenue that doesn’t come from taxpayers.
Most important, sound strategic and financial planning means we avoid expensive debt and prepare for future growth by saving effectively. If we plan ahead for our infrastructure needs, we will collect the right development cost charges from developers to ensure that our infrastructure meets the needs caused by growth.
We need a vision that looks 25 or more years to the future.
I know budgeting, saving and planning aren’t exactly exciting answers, but they work.
If we build smart development, it will financially benefit the city. Mission collects development cost charges (DCC’s). If we are accurately predicting the city’s needs, new infrastructures will be paid for or subsidize major projects.
The sewer crossing as an example. The pipe is 40 years old and we have no idea what condition it is in. Even with no development, it’s going to have to be replaced. About half of the pipe cost will be covered by developers through DCC’s. DCC’s cover the infrastructure directly related to the development.
Mission also collects an amenity fee and a 5% park land contribution per unit. Mission Sports Council identified a need for a covered sports complex. Surrey is building one for $1.9 million and because they had a shovel ready project, they were granted $1 million by the feds.
If that were Mission, we’d have to come up with $900,000. We could use the amenity and park land fees at say $5,000 per unit. 180 homes built would raise $900,000. That is an example of how to build amenities.
To resist property tax increase we need to diversify our building types. Condos and apartments are not only needed to keep Mission families in Mission, they actually subsidize property tax.
Collect tax from six houses and lots or 20, 30 or 50 units in the same space. The development department is the business side of the city. It is so important it runs with optimal efficiency. It not only provides the city with revenues for amenities and tax stabilization but they plan the quality and livability of our city.
People live longer and create multi-generational families; so we need to build new housing. Let’s make sure we are building with proactive planning, have clear directions for developers and think to the future.
Mission and Maple Ridge have some of the last developable lands in the Metro Vancouver/ Valley with local and “outside” developers here and more on the way.
We have to prepare and plan for this from land use to transportation and infrastructure. The focus will be less on single family homes and more on multi-unit and this makes sense for developers and the District as fees related are then more affectively used.
Tax burden on houses will ease as we move into this along with more commercial and industrial growth. We must support more staffing and planning now as we are “behind” and not as prepared as needed. We have seen proposals that the public and council have challenges with, that more detailed planning would reduce controversy and provide public input. When a project is rejected or has challenges, the end product cost more to cover this.
Clear planning will reduce the costs of housing rentals and sales and we all know how expensive things are. I have a authorized rental basement suite that pays extra water / sewer that pays $200 taxes per month which represents 11% of the rent. Costs related to building, delays, extra taxes etc. are simply passed on to the buyer or renter. Affordable housing is simply not about the builder but the whole equation.
I am confident that with all the current and future growth, the tax base will increase and provide some needed relief to home owners in Mission. I have been paying taxes on this “old house” since 2000 and can only say I wish my RRSP did this type of “growth” curve.
Our reliance on single family homes for taxation must change and the situation clearly shows we are going in the right direction. Mission is no longer a small town and is facing growth few can imagine. We must prepare.
Responsible growth should be welcomed! New construction increases our tax base and funds municipal services and infrastructure upgrades. This year the District is expecting to generate $400,000 in taxes from new construction. We could generate much more by streamlining our processes.
Council should rely on professional engineers and architects to sign off on building plans without requiring a second approval from staff. This would significantly speed things up. If mistakes are made, they will be caught when municipal building inspectors do their site visits. The engineers and architects are insured and will be responsible for correcting anything that does not conform to the building code.
Municipal wages need to keep up with inflation. I do not support a tax increase above the rate of inflation unless voters agree by way of a referendum. For example; residents could vote to increase property taxes above the rate of inflation for a municipal outdoor pool during the next election cycle.
Stave Falls has an official community plan that allows rural property to be sub-divided to 1.73 acre lots with carriage houses. Change the zoning in the entire area to match the official community plan by starting all applications at 3rd reading with an appropriate checklist.
The checklist would include things like water, septic, access, building site and setbacks. If these requirements are met, the application immediately moves to 4th reading approval. If the answer is going to be yes, let’s get their as quickly and efficiently as possible! Zoning in the downtown core could be given a similar streamlined process. Once the public consultation is complete, we would be able to move very quickly to construction for the designated areas re-zoned. Watch the downtown core flourish with the demand new residents provide as they frequent the businesses in the area.
Mission is experiencing a development boom. How should council balance increasing growth, the need for infrastructure upgrades, and providing services to a community resistant to further tax increases? I see three issues with respect to this question.
The first: With respect to the real estate boom Mission is experiencing. It is important to remember that real estate is a non-liquid commodity; this means it is normally a commodity which takes a period to sell. Making decisions in a boom can be reckless and often littered with failure. The leadership should be familiar with this and not be making management by crisis decisions.
The second: Currently Mission is now seeing a new, previously unseen, demand for very high density condo housing. Areas have already been zoned for this however, there has not been the demand and absorption of this kind of real estate in Mission, as there has been in Surrey and Langley. Add in the artificial low interest rates which have inadvertently made affordability to go through the roof. Higher density condos are looking like the only kind of housing that is affordable, with developers pushing for it because of much better returns.
The third: The road infrastructure program has not kept up with the development. Traffic is building, parking is a huge concern, and people are noticing and complaining. There are other infrastructure issues as well. The developers may have to wait. We should be up front about it, not approve a project, then stall and dump bureaucracy on it. We should do what we say.
With respect to providing services to a community resistant to tax increases. There needs to be attention made to the issues within City Hall at this time. The chaos going on must be addressed. We need someone with experience to lead the council.