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Coquitlam seeks new tools for housing affordability

City council wants to levy development cost charge when bigger homes replace old ones
Coquitlam Coun. Dennis Marsden

The City of Coquitlam wants the provincial and federal governments to give municipalities a couple of new tools to help approve housing affordability. 

Council has approved asking the senior levels of government to allow municipalities to charge development cost fees when property owners build new homes larger than the previous ones. It also wants to be able to put a tax on short-term house flipping.

A report to council said single-family homes get preferential treatment because they don't have to pay charges like developers do.

"Many new single-family homes in southwest Coquitlam are double or even triple the size of the original single-family homes they replace, and increasingly include illegal suites built without permits," said the report written by chief planner Jim McIntyre. "The city does not have the ability under existing legislation to charge development cost charges for one-for-one single-family home replacements, despite a potentially larger impact on existing infrastructure.

"This means that development cost charges for a new housing choices project with four units would be significantly higher than for a single-family home that could be larger and potentially have the same number of people living in it. The city also lacks the ability to require development permits to control form and character of new single-family homes and ensure they fit into existing neighbourhoods."

McIntyre wrote being able to charge the fees and regulate form and character would "help level the playing field between single-family homes and other housing types."

He also wants the province to revise the property transfer tax to target speculation by introducing a sliding scare with higher rates for more expensive transaction and/or for shorter term flips.

Although council gave the go ahead to draft letters and resolutions to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and the Union of B.C. Municipalities, it did so with some trepidation.

Coun. Dennis Marsden said many homeowners opt for large homes because their lot isn't large enough to be subdivided.

"Are we suggesting we ask the feds to give us the power to kick them harder," said Marsden. "Maybe the solution is to modify (Coquitlam's regulations) to allow the smaller lots.

"We can't just assume the province and the feds are going to be familiar with our alternative housing programs."

While Coun. Bonita Zarrillo supported the motion, she wondered if McIntyre's suggestions are going to be the most effective.

"We don't want to be asking for the world. I was surprised by the choices. I wanted to have a more thorough discussion," said Zarrillo. "Let's have a real strong ask. Let's be forthright in what we want."