Even though I already own a home, allow me to state for the record that I stand in opposition to the general principle of development charges on future home building in Brandon. This is a highly complex issue with many moving parts. No one has all of the information required to make a complete determination on whether we should institute this tax, as has been proposed by the city.
Why do I stand against it?
There are many rationales behind a new development levy. For example, consider the costs of building new roads to a development, and sewers. Lift stations may have to be built, and other enhancements to areas adjacent to the new developments.
I live in Brookwood. When this area was developed, there would be additional stresses placed upon the local streets and sewers. This is simple and not for debate.
What is for debate is: who should pay for these additional elements? The developer of the new area? All taxpayers? The residents of the new development?
One of my simple rules of life is that you get more of what you subsidize and less of what you tax. In this case, if we tax new home construction, then we should expect less of it. If fewer new houses are built, expect that to trickle down to negatively impact tradespeople.
At the same time, it is also reasonable to expect that a new premium would be added to the price of existing homes. After all, if one can buy an existing home in Brookdale but has to pay an additional levy to build a new home, then not only will new home construction slow, but prices on existing homes should increase slightly.
The popular understanding of new developments in Brandon is that the developer buys the land, builds roads, sewers, sidewalks, etc., and then hands this over to the city for its care. In turn, the city receives all of the ongoing taxes. The developer makes a profit on the house construction and sales.
Many of the owners of the newest homes in Brandon already pay exorbitant property taxes. We can argue about the fairness of that, but it’s a fact. From a fairness perspective, why should these homeowners be expected to carry even more of the burden? Do they use more city services? Roads? Sewers? In addition, their contribution to school taxes is also linked to their property value.
Again, do they use our school system more than residents of neighbouring developments? Actually, given the location of existing schools and Brandon’s lack of new schools, it might be reasonable to suggest the residents of these new developments are carrying too much of the load anyway.
I have written before that we all need to compromise and work together in a society. George Constanza understood the idea of a social contract, and so must we all.
Before we start some type of community class war between the wealthy and not-so-wealthy, think about the other elements of our lives and ask yourself if we all need to compromise. For example, should someone who is healthy pay taxes that subsidize our health-care system? After all, the healthy person isn't using it.
People who have no children in the school system still pay school taxes, just as we all subsidize the Sportsplex whether we swim or not, and fund the library whether we use it or not, and so on. We don’t complain (too loudly) because these are central elements of a successful society. We all give and take.
So, given this, should we decide to levy development charges on new home construction, even when we haven’t truly figured out all of the long-term implications? It is this columnist’s hope that we consider all of the implications before we impose such hefty new taxes.