City to hike housing costs

The city wants to tack on more charges to the already high cost of buying a house. Monday, planning manager Mike Gau introduced the proposed development rates for new houses.

The city wants to tack on more charges to the already high cost of buying a house.

Monday, planning manager Mike Gau introduced the proposed development rates for new houses.

Single detached houses will get slapped with an extra $1,000 fee bringing the total to $3,500.

The rates for living suites will increase from $1,500 to $2,000.

And serviced country residential lots will now be charged a new fee of $1,000.

These development charges are eventually added to the building permits paid for by developers.

The charges are meant to pay for municipal services like roads and sewer and water lines, and to offset the need for more city taxes, said Gau.

“We haven’t updated these fees for some time and that’s why we’re bringing this forward,” he said.

But some councillors don’t like the changes.

“We’ve never had so much money coming from senior levels of government to pay for new infrastructure,” said Councillor Doug Graham, pointing to things like the federal gas tax.

“So many of the things the (development cost charges) are being used for are also being paid for by these other levels of funding.

“So to say they have to go up because costs are going up is really a mistaken idea.”

But the city hasn’t increased its development cost charges since 1996, and it needs to play catch up.

“What happens when we fall back on our increases is that it affects the cost of construction of infrastructure,” said Gau.

“The collection of fees hasn’t kept up. If they don’t rise we’ll be forced to supplement with taxes.”

The fees are increased in relation to the Canadian Price Index, making the charges half of what they would be if they were pegged to the non-residential building construction index, said Gau.

But the costs are still high and they’re stifling growth, said Graham.

“How can you ever build low-cost housing if the cheapest lot you’ll find is $80,000 to $90,000 and then we tack on another few thousand,” he said.

“Everything we do is going to increase the cost of housing in Whitehorse and I think the costs are already out of sight because we don’t have any lots on the market.”

Graham also pointed out that the only developer that doesn’t have to pay the charges is the Yukon government.

Council votes on the proposed increases next Monday.