City fees a hard balancing act

That business-friendly Langford had some of the highest property development fees in the region would surprise many people.

That business-friendly Langford had some of the highest property development fees in the region would surprise many people.

Over the past decade, Langford has used money wrestled from developers to help install sidewalks, improve roads and streetscapes, and to build some of the most progressive recreation facilities in the region.

Further, it used “density bonusing” — high density development — to create a celebrated affordable housing program where qualifying Langford residents can buy a three-bedroom house for far less than market rates.

But the heyday of milking developers in return for allowing large property development projects seems to be slipping away.

Housing prices have risen in Langford, making the development community complain the affordable housing program was becoming untenable. Earlier this year, Langford responded and reduced the number of affordable units required by developers.

Now on Saturday, Langford announced that it will reduce some amenity contributions that come through rezoning, such as open space contributions and possibly quality of street and sidewalk upgrades. It wants to cut developer and new business costs by 25 per cent.

There is nothing wrong with Langford striving to stay competitive within the region with regards to fees and permits. But the City needs to stay cognisant that there are plenty of neighbourhoods that need sidewalks and road improvements, notably on Sooke Road in the Luxton area.

Langford still has low property taxes and the most affordable housing in the region. It has the highest rate of population growth in the province. That means there are plenty of reasons for businesses and jobs to stay, and for property developments to continue.

Cutting fees is a balancing act between pleasing businesses and developers and creating public amenities. Langford needs to watch that give and take doesn’t swing to far away from the needs of its citizens.