Frances Nunziata, with her colleague Michael Thompson, is asking the city to waive development charges in Weston and the other 12 priority neighbourhoods.
Development charges are fees charged on new residential and commercial spaces. The charge is $5–$15,000 for a residence, and about $35,000 for a 2000 square-foot commercial space. (Industrial spaces are exempt). Nunziata’s proposal to council says,
With many of these neighborhoods having their main streets lined with vacant storefronts, empty apartments and/or dilapidated buildings, there is little appeal for people to shop at the few stores on th e commercial strips and even less appeal for new businesses to locate there. Less business in the community results in fewer jobs in the community, reinforcing the disparity that already exists in the City’s Priority Neighborhoods between population and the availability of local employment….
By waiving development charges in the City’s Priority Neighborhoods for a fixed period of time, the City would aid in the revitalization of the Priority Neighborhoods, with the anticipated result of increased interest in development opportunities in those neighborhoods.
The Globe and Mail has a nice article discussing this. Not everyone agrees with Nunziata;
“It’s not going to work instantly,” predicts Stephen Dupuis, who heads the Building Industry and Land Development Association. “I doubt there’s a whole lot of land holdings sitting [in those areas] waiting for an incentive.”
“The problem in those neighbourhoods is lack of demand, not lack of supply,” adds planner Joe Berridge, noting that development-charge holidays or other measures, such as tax increment financing, won’t create local economic activity.
Your humble correspondent also wonders whether Westonians would even want this plan to succeed. It seems to him that Weston has plenty of high-rise housing and likely already has low retail rents.
Even Nunziata agrees in part; in what is surely an off-the-cuff comment in the Globe, she says, “Ninety per cent of the stores on Weston Road are vacant”.