City agrees to further discuss levying green space tax on developers.

Today at Ottawa City Council, an amendment recommended by city staff to Planning Committee Report #65 was brought forward by Councillors Glenn Gower and Scott Moffat.

The amendment focuses on collecting a “community benefits charge” from housing development to subsidize green spaces in the city, particularly parks.

Councillor Carol Anne Meehan asked to discuss the proposed additional fee put forward by Moffat and Gower. She expressed concerns over the state of housing in Ottawa, saying “it’s already out of reach for most people in the city.”

Meehan noted that although there is a discussion about increasing affordable housing for people wanting to enter the housing market, the current high inflation and the addition of the community benefits charge will add more restrictions to developers who are needed to build more homes in the city.

Meehan is concerned that further “fees” imposed by the city on the housing development proposed by the motion will cause builders to say “enough is enough” and leave the market. Councillor Gower responded by stating that developers' concerns are always considered but that the motion presents a way for the city to meet its goals for parklands.

Councillor Allan Hubley seconded Meehan’s concerns and said that the proposed motion, although having a plan to review in three years, will further drive the cost of home ownership out of the hands of first-time buyers in Ottawa. Hubley thus did not support the motion.

Councillor Rick Chiarelli chimed in, stating an Ottawa Business Journal report that noted previous efforts by Council to make housing prices more affordable resulted in a price increase of nearly $100,000 per unit.

Councillor Jeff Leiper supported the motion as recommended by staff, including the amendments by Gower and Moffat, saying that while it will collect more money for parks, it will not fix the situation with parks as it stands in the city. Leiper further stated that the city needs to worry more about procuring land for green areas so it does not become a “concrete jungle.”

Theresa Kavanaugh also supported the proposed plan saying that more green space is needed in the city. Gower closed debate of the motion by stating that affordable housing would be exempt from the “parkland dedication bylaw.” In the end, Meehan supported the motion, which passed with twenty-one to three votes.

Councillor Catherine McKenney raised frustration with the city’s housing situation. In particular, they discussed by-law amendments to 142, 144, and 148 Nepean Street, an apartment building with adjacent parking areas scheduled to be demolished. Ironically, lots are to become surface parking. The city is proposing giving tenants the option of a $15,000 payout or a rent subsidy in a new building.

McKenney pointed out that the city is in a housing emergency, with “2000 people last night sleeping in a shelter or outside.” McKenney stated that too many of the city’s low-rise housing units and smaller buildings are being turned into parking. The motion failed to pass 11-13.

A motion by Theresa Kavanaugh and seconded by Mayor Watson asked Council to support Mayor Watson writing Premier Ford for community consultation in advance of the implementation of “strong mayor powers.” Watson wanted the support to express the opinion that “giving too much power to one person, mainly the mayor, is a dangerous precedent for our democracy.” The motion was carried.

City Council will meet again on September 21st. It will be the second to last meeting for this term.