Chamber, developers accuse Kelowna council of pushing development out of city with new park fees | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Chamber, developers accuse Kelowna council of pushing development out of city with new park fees

Dan Rogers, executive director of Kelowna Chamber of Commerce, speaks to reporters at a media conference, Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2019.
September 17, 2019 - 11:54 AM

KELOWNA - It’s time to put a stop to ongoing cost increases for new homes in Kelowna, the local development community said today.

A day after city council agreed to add $7,000 to the charges developers have to pay for each new home, the Chamber of Commerce and developer organizations challenged City Hall to find ways to make housing more affordable – or risk having new workers choosing to live in Lake Country or West Kelowna.

“We’re in a competitive environment,” chamber executive director Dan Rogers said following a press conference today, Sept. 17. “We made the case to the city that, if we raise our development costs and taxes go up, Lake Country is saying ‘bring it on’ because they will get development. People will make choice of where they’re going to live and, if it’s cheaper to live in Lake Country or West Kelowna, that’s the risk you run by raising that bar.”

The new fees are to pay to build parks and are the same whether it’s for a million-dollar house or a $300,000 condo. It pushes the development cost charges to an average of $35,000 per home in Kelowna.

“You can speak with an official with the District of Lake Country right now and they’re being run over by applications for developments and housing over there because it’s a more affordable move for us as builders and developers to move there,” developer and chamber director Ray Wynsouw added. “On top of that, the people that live there will continue to work here and take advantage of all our facilities here, yet they’re not going to be paying their share of the proceeds towards that.”

He’s currently building two housing projects in Kelowna and hopes to build two more but the new fees will add $420,000 to the cost of the two proposed six-storey towers so they may not be affordable to build, he said.

And, despite the fact that city staff say these kinds of fees are not passed on 100 per cent to home buyers, Wynsouw disagreed.

“The developer is not going to absorb anything,” he said. “I think there’s a real misnomer out there that developers are wealthy individuals and wealthy companies and the money’s just rolling in. It’s not. It’s a very, very tight and competitive market. We need to keep our numbers down. There’s no room to absorb additional costs.”

While there’s no way the increase will be rolled back, Rogers suggested the city look at other ways to make housing more affordable, like lobbying the federal government for more infrastructure funding, using legacy funds to pay for park development or user fees.

“And, somewhere along the line, instead of saying we have no money to pay, maybe we say we can’t afford some of these things and be frank and honest with the taxpayers,” he said. “You’ve got to make those tough decisions.”

The Urban Development Institute and Canadian Homebuilders’ Association issued a joint news release with the chamber but were unable to attend the news conference. The release stressed that this was not an issue about building parks but about the ongoing increases to the cost of building homes in the city.

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