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Banff's cash-in-lieu rate potentially to see large increase

“We’ve talked about this since I first got on council … We can wait another two years, but this is in front of us right now with a far more appropriate number. To move it for what will be $55,000 in 2024 to $241,000, so it reflects annual inflation, I think it’s critical."
Banff Town Hall 1
Banff Town Hall

BANFF – Proposed updates to the Town of Banff’s housing policy include cash-in-lieu significantly increasing to match the growing building costs for a residential unit.

While Town of Banff staff will begin work on the potential changes, Banff’s governance and finance committee deferred it returning to council until the housing ratio study is complete in 2024 to provide additional information for Banff’s decision-makers.

“We’re really going to go out to the business community and say ‘our goal here is to provide net new housing units and if you’re unable to build it, there’s likely going to be a cash-in-lieu rate that may be more in line with the real cost of building,’” said Mayor Corrie DiManno.

“But, we’ll have that conversation based on more information we get from the housing ratio study,” she added, noting it could address options for either a yearly contribution of a lump sum payment.

The existing cash-in-lieu rate for required housing is $53,813 per bedroom and is set to go to $55,105 for 2024.

However, a staff report showed the total cost for the municipality's affordable housing project at 340 Banff Ave, The Aster, was $11.2 million and worked out to $303,500 per bedroom adjusted to inflation for 2023. The estimated cost of a private development at 420 Cougar St. was $6.5 million and the 2023 cost per bedroom adjusted to inflation is $179,000. The average per bedroom for the two products at 2023 inflation-adjusted rates is $241,500.

The assessed value per unit for 420 Cougar St. is $326,000.

The report added lower cost options exist such as adding a bedroom to an existing home, which can be between $5,000-$15,000. An addition of a suite can be about $60,000.

Emma Sanborn, a development planner with the Town, said the options are building housing or providing money through cash-in-lieu, with the latter being “the less expensive option for folks who aren’t able to procure land or don’t have existing residential land to add new bedrooms.”

She noted the two comparisons of The Aster and 420 Cougar St. weren’t meant to be “apples to apples” but to show “both ends of the spectrum” when it comes to rental and purchase costs per bedroom unit.

“We’ve talked about this since I first got on council … We can wait another two years, but this is in front of us right now with a far more appropriate number,” said Coun. Barb Pelham. “To move it for what will be $55,000 in 2024 to $241,000, so it reflects annual inflation, I think it’s critical.

“I know we’re close to full build-out in terms of large commercial projects, but what we do have and will continue to have is an intensification of our commercial space which will put pressure on our housing needs and I think responsibility by businesses that are intensifying. We need them to step up. If they’re going to intensify businesses, they also need to help with housing to an appropriate value.”

The Town’s housing policy was established in 1991 when Banff was incorporated as an Alberta municipality. A staff report noted it’s intended to encourage a mixed supply of housing for people who work and live in Banff.

In addition to the possibility of updating the cash-in-lieu fee, the committee directed staff to draft amendments to stop adding bedrooms to existing units to meet land use bylaw requirements and have new policy for public information sessions when it comes to housing.

Banff council approved its Housing Accelerator Fund action plan in June in an attempt to access the federal government’s $4 billion program.

A full-scale look at the Town’s land use bylaw is exploring different scenarios to ease regulations for development and create more housing.

The townsite has a projected shortfall of 700-1,000 residential units, with many of the possible land use amendments under consideration potentially adding hundreds of housing units in the coming years.

Council has approved parking requirement changes, directed Town staff to return for a scope of work for a 250-unit affordable housing project on Tatanga Ridge benchlands and for municipal staff to complete a housing ratio study to improve understanding of housing needs.

The governance and finance committee has also directed Town staff to return with changes to simplify regulations for low-, medium- and high-density scenarios and have the same regulations across all 24 land use districts in the townsite.

Municipal staff were also directed to potentially remove minimum and maximum dwelling sizes and look at amending boundaries for seven land use districts.

Council had previously received reports on land use bylaw regulations, accessory dwellings, permitting, financial tools and parking.

In addition to the potential cash-in-lieu fee change, it will continue to have an annual inflationary tool.

An attempt by Coun. Hugh Pettigrew to include land costs to any cash-in-lieu adjustment was defeated 4-1.

Associated reports on cash-in-lieu rates that are connected to the build cost of a bedroom will return at a later council meeting of governance and finance committee when the housing ratio study appears at council no later than July.

The study, which was outsourced, will also come back with an option for a yearly fee to go to the housing reserve instead of a single point-in-time contribution during the development permit process that’s based on floor area and required housing per use.

The committee also directed Town staff to look at possibly including charitable, non-profit organizations and family day-homes as unique categories in the Town’s business licence bylaw. Housing requirements will also remain the same for business types that get exemptions, including doctors and lawyers.

Town staff noted the public information sessions would be a way to relay to residents what council is considering before first reading.

Alison Gerrits, the Town’s director of community services, said the intent would be to reflect what’s on the table for council consideration and have a discussion with residents before council votes on the options.

“It’s in addition to the land use bylaw amendment that requires a public hearing … but it is to culminate all of this direction that’s been given up to now and have a conversation with the community with some visual imagery, showing all the elements of these things,” she said. “That will lend itself to giving that feedback loop back to yourselves in advance of the public hearing.”

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