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A Recipe for Zero Development

A recent public meeting reviewing a development proposal offered insight into a common challenge faced by builders.

Many residents demanded a low density project, significant green space, preservation of trees and affordable housing.

The problem is the numbers don’t work.

A low density, affordable housing project, green space and mature trees close to downtown Victoria is not financially viable.

It is a recipe for zero development or bankruptcy.

Victoria’s land prices are some of the highest in North America. Significant density is the only way to achieve tree preservation, green space and pay the many fees and amenities demanded by city council.

In addition, there is the Property Transfer Tax, improvements, BC Building Code regulations, and much more.

Provincial and local govts have done a poor job explaining development’s cost/benefit, building for the future, and young generations.

Education is left to builders presenting their development proposals in an environment of neighbourhood change and anxiety.

Their proposals may be based on approved Community Plans supporting higher density, yet they encounter a storm of protests demanding low density, affordable homes and tree preservation.

If a builder is very lucky, common sense prevails and council may approve the project.

If not, council rejects the proposal, regardless of the Community Plan, at the builder’s great expense.

Not all developments deserve approval, but many are rejected because builders can’t deliver projects based on unrealistic expectations.

BC needs an education program to help citizens understand the development business model and opportunities offered in revitalizing our communities.

The alternative is more costly proposals rejected on the basis of unrealistic demands – a recipe for zero development.

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This column appears Wednesdays in the Times Colonist.

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