Developers balk at proposed Metro Vancouver sewage fee hike

The regional district is considering increasing a fee that developers pay to cover required sewage infrastructure in new developments.

In some areas — like the fast-growing Fraser region — fees could double

The regional district of Metro Vancouver is considering increasing fees for developers to pay for sewage infrastructure in new developments. (Dan Zakreski/CBC)

This week, the regional district of Metro Vancouver will consider increasing a fee for developers to pay for new sewage infrastructure — a proposal many developers say they're not happy about.

Developers typically pay development cost charges to offset the munipalities' costs related to essential services — like sewage infrastructure or road costs — required for a new development.

The region's sewage fees have remained the same since 1997, but Dean Rear, director of financial planning and operations at Metro Vancouver, says increased development and growth in the region led district staff to consider increasing the fee.

"We've been undertaking this review over the past couple years," Rear said. "[We] review our charges and ensure our costs are adequate to make sure we can pay for the infrastructure we have to have in place ahead of that development so that we are dealing with liquid waste appropriately."

Staff held public consultation workshops about the fees this fall.

Rear said they hadn't considered increasing the costs before as the 1997 rates had "done a fairly good job" of covering overall costs.

"But as we've seen the growth coming in the region, we're having to make sure [we] look forward to get charges to reflect the overall costs for that infrastructure," he said.

'A big chunk of money'

Bob de Wit, the CEO of the Greater Vancouver Home Builders' Association, called the proposed fee increases "significant" and "a big chunk of money."

For example, the current development fee for a single-family home in Vancouver is $944. Under the proposed new fee structure, that fee goes up to $1,811. In the Fraser area, the fee goes from $1,731 to $5,428 for a single-family home.

The development cost charges differ across the region. Metro Vancouver has four areas, including Vancouver, Lulu Island, North Shore and Fraser. 

De Wit said sewage treatment infrastructure is extremely important, adding the fee increase comes at a very sensitive time in the market.

"If you're a young market buyer, you're facing higher interest rates, and on top of that these other charges being imposed by the cities trickling down to you for home construction," he said.

"All of it together is going to be make housing less affordable, especially for first-time home buyers and young buyers who are trying to move up in the market."


De Wit says the fee hike doesn't have to be levied all at once. They could be phased in over a few years.

Rear says that's up to the Metro Vancouver board to consider, but he said the priority is making sure the district has the funds to build the necessary infrastructure required for new developments.

If not, he said, someone else would end up paying.

"There's a principle here of growth paying for growth," he said. "If that isn't adhered to, then the people who are already in their homes and in their houses would end up having to pay for that through the sewage levy."

The Metro Vancouver board will look at a bylaw to increase the development cost charge on Oct. 27. If passed, the new bylaw would come into effect by April 2018.