Calgary's development lobby has jumped in to the election campaign, saying there are widespread misconceptions about the home building industry that need to be cleared up.
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The Urban Development Institute (UDI), a body that speaks on behalf of Calgary’s home building industry, released an open letter to candidates in this month’s municipal election.
“Ours is an industry that contributes greatly to the economic well-being and growth of our city, yet is grossly misunderstood,” said Guy Huntingford, the institute’s CEO who signed the letter.
Huntingford listed several examples, including the contention made by some candidates that taxes from existing communities subsidize new suburban development.
He said the industry pays for everything except the $72,000 a hectare cost of new water lines.
“Just to be clear, this is the water that comes out of the tap and the water that goes down the toilet. These services are paid for by the utility that all people in the new community contribute to along with all other Calgarians.”
Mayor Naheed Nenshi said that sounds like a subsidy from all Calgarians, which is why he wants developers to cover the true cost of new communities.
“My figures are closer to $80,000 per hectare, which is where I get $4,500 per home as a subsidy — a sprawl subsidy — for new homes built on the periphery,” he said.
“And it seems that they completely agree with that, so I'm happy to hear that.”
The institute also said houses could become more expensive if the industry is not allowed to build more to meet the demand.
Nenshi said he understands why the industry is concerned, given that sales in new communities such as Skyview Ranch, Redstone and Cityscape are doing better than expected.
“Because the sales are going so quickly, there is concern that the number of hectares will run out more quickly than we had originally thought they would when we signed off on these projections,” he said.
“And there may be some truth to that, and that's another reason that we're trying to speed up the planning process as best we can.”
According to Huntingford, developers aren't only interested in building new communities on the city's fringes.
He said his industry is not opposed to higher densities elsewhere in the city, but wants a better process in place to ensure that kind of growth is possible.
“The city wants densification in mature communities but has not created the environment to allow multi-family development to happen in a timely fashion,” he said.
“This is particularly concerning because multi-family development is a key component of densification.
Despite its concerns, Huntingford said the industry can work with Nenshi if he is re-elected.
The development industry has made headlines in the past because of a controversial video where Cal Wenzel, founder of Shane Homes, outlines a plan to defeat members of council who are seen as anti-development.