City Councillor Cody Younker on how the proposed Community Amenity Contributions (CAC) bylaw can help Revelstoke Affordable Housing

Mentioned briefly in the October Council Meeting minutes, the CAC is an involved process that offers Revelstoke the chance to help keep infrastructure in line with development.

While many residents may never have heard of a CAC, it was something Councillor Cody Younker brought up the second day after he was sworn in to council.

“I was promptly shut down,” Younker says. “It was considered too much work at the time.”

Younker, along with other councillors, believed the work is worth it. Marriane Wade, the City’s Planning Director, who has previously been a City Councillor in Whistler and worked for BC Housing, got behind it. In the October City Council meeting, Councillor Rhind made a motion to pursue a report detailing how a CAC would work for Revelstoke. The motion passed unanimously.

“We have a responsibility to look after taxpayers; there is a lot we can do. We need to deal with affordable housing, and this is one of the ways we can deal with,” says Younker.

What is a CAC and how does differ from a Development Cost Charge (DCC)?

The CAC is like a DCC’s cousin.

When a DCC is collected, it is only used for specific purposes from an approved list. A DCC is a major bylaw, as such, the list must be created by the city, approved by the council and passed by the provincial government.

“A DCC can’t go into your operational budget,” explains Younker. “It only goes to specific things pertaining to growth like water, sewer, and roads, from specific reserves.”

However, CAC’s only target commercial development and the monies collected from CAC can be used for a much broader range.

“Affordable housing is one of the main things it is used for,” says Younker.

It’s not all about collecting money from developers either. Younker notes that, when a CAC bylaw is created, it can legally require developers to create or improve impacted green space, roads, and sidewalks.

“Right now, all that is required is to pay for the services to be extended to the site. With a CAC, depending on the development, we could require roads be widened or have roundabouts added, sidewalks created for safety and parks made or improved for greenspace,” says Younker

If it were to be a housing development, the city could tackle affordable housing in a tangible way.

“The City could require both developers and new commercial businesses, such as hotels, to either pay a set fee that is put in an affordable housing reserve, or provide a certain amount of units to be declared as affordable housing. These units would have a rental covenant or a landowner covenant, like what Whistler has created. These covenants limits how much you can resell for, which keep it affordable,” says Younker. “We can not dictate anything like that without the CAC in place.”

“We have grown at such a fast rate that our infrastructure is being held together at the seams,” he says. “Having developers help build roads, keeping green space and that sort of thing is important.

Why Having CAC’s in place is not Anti Development

“I’ve already heard pushback saying it will cause the cost of development to go up too high. There is a lot of documentation out there proving that doesn’t typically happen,” says Younker. “I am pro development, but it has to be the right kind of development.”

In truth, Revelstoke is one of the few resort communities lacking a CAC agreement.

“Developers will build if they can make their 15-20% profit margins, and if they don’t like the CAC here, they’ll find something similar in any other community they go to,” says Younker.

“I hear talk of how Revelstoke has benefited from development. And yes, from an economic standpoint, we have. Six coffee shops on one street couldn’t survive otherwise. But as far as the taxpayers are concerned, they haven’t benefited. They are still paying a lot of money to essentially subsidize developers making money.”

“We need to find a nice place where we are still attracting developers, but also helping our community. Revelstoke has problems, but they are the problems other communities would die to have, they are growth related problems that we can tackle,” he says.

The Steps Involved in getting a CAC bylaw

With a motion passed, a report is expected to be ready by January. From there, the council will start to tackle the major work involved with large bylaw creation.

“We need to know how much creating the bylaw would cost, what it would look like, and how long it will take to create,” says Younker. “We need a plan unique to us; we need a project list. We need to decide as a community how much the levies will be and what requirements we want to include. We have to identify projects and green spaces. We don’t have a reserve fund for affordable housing. So we would have to create one.”

“I don’t want to see the current housing committee disband, but Marianne Wade has indicated we need a housing authority here, similar to Whistler but unique to Revelstoke, and I agree with her. It would allow us to create affordable housing units much faster,” says Younker.

There is, clearly, a lot of work to be done.

“One thing that is easy to forget is that bylaws cost money to create. There are legal requirements about how many steps and hearings are needed along the way. After the city and community has agreed on everything, major bylaws, like DCC’s and CAC’s, have to be approved by the province. Sun Peaks, Parksville and Nanaimo all just had their DCC lists denied. So we need to do this, but we need to do it right.”

As for the DCC’s. “We’re on it,” says Younker. “It’s a process, and we have the people now to start to tackle it.”

This council is clearly passionate about and ready to tackle Revelstoke’s problems. While it takes time, the long term pay off looks to be worth it.

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