We desperately need more housing, but it’s not good for our long-term sustainability to tackle the issue as housing at all costs.
Lack of housing opportunities is creating significant challenges and anxiety among businesses and our community as a whole. We have already become too expensive for some to live here and the problem seems to be getting worse.
It’s understandable that all levels of government are fixated on creating more housing — as they should be. But we need to make sure we don’t lose perspective of the vision our communities need for the future.
We need more employment lands to go along with our population growth or we risk becoming an expensive bedroom community.
Not only will servicing more employment lands build a stronger local workforce, but it offsets the tax burden placed on homeowners. Commercial and industrial property owners in Peterborough pay 1.5 times the tax assessment rate of residential homeowner. While they desperately need basic municipal services like water and sewer — they use fewer services overall.
Municipalities can generate more revenue with fewer expenses while growing our local economy by servicing employment lands.
But we have essentially run out of serviced employment lands. There are a few pockets here and there, but local opportunities are slim. This is not just a City problem — we need to approach this as a region. There is a long history on this subject and it comes with a lot of baggage. It’s time to step back, look at the bigger picture, and come back to the negotiating table with all options as we try and work collaboratively to grow stronger as a region.
Currently, the City of Peterborough’s Official Plan is holding back much of these negotiations from even starting. Section 6.1.7 a) states:
Municipal utility services, sanitary sewer and water supply shall not be extended beyond the City boundaries, except in the case where such infrastructure is to serve City owned facilities such as the Peterborough Airport.
It does go on to provide a couple exemptions, but this statement is very limiting to not allow the municipality to even consider servicing land not within their boundaries or land they don’t own.
The City of Peterborough already has servicing agreements with the County and several townships on services like long-term care, emergency medical services, social services, and policing. Why is it a non-starter for water and sewer? Municipalities across Canada have water and sewer shared service agreements, enough so that the Federation of Canadian Municipalities offers a template service agreement for municipalities to use. Providing water and sewer service is expensive, but it’s not unreasonable to create a shared service agreement that covers the costs of this and provides financial benefits to all parties.
The message this section of the Official Plan sends is that if you’re planning to work out an agreement for serviced employment lands with the City of Peterborough, you’re really negotiating the terms of having your land annexed.
Annexation may or may not be part of the solution. The same goes for serving development outside city limits. The solution to our employment land shortage will have to be negotiated collaboratively between all parties with the understanding that it will benefit all, regardless of which municipality is collecting the tax revenue.
The City of Peterborough is undergoing a review of its Official Plan. Much of this review is focused on the back-and-forth between it and the Province to create more housing. One consequence of this back-and-forth is the potential loss of the few future serviceable employment lands within City limits.
Now is the time to rework the Official Plan and the Peterborough and Kawarthas Chamber of Commerce is strongly urging the City of Peterborough to completely remove section 6.1.7. We are advocating that both the City and the County work together in good faith to create an employment lands agreement. This will open more opportunities to build housing, create more property tax revenue, and grow our local economy.
The Peterborough and the Kawarthas Chamber of Commerce acts as a catalyst to enhance business growth, opportunity, innovation, partnerships and a diverse business community.