Advocacy is a big part of what we do at the Greater Peterborough Chamber of Commerce. Every year we highlight certain issues to the Ontario Chamber of Commerce for chambers across the province to debate. The approved resolutions remain a key part of the chamber advocacy for three years, at which point they are reviewed and re-submitted if the issue is still pressing.
We’re happy to say one of our 2018 resolutions, Cutting Red Tape for Motor Vehicles, was successful in its advocacy by streamlining the process for vehicle dealerships to process registrations without having to physically attend a Service Ontario location for each sale.
However, two of our issues remain and will continue to be a point of advocacy.
Maximizing Growth in Built Areas Housing is a big issue in Peterborough. Simply put, there isn’t enough. There isn’t enough affordable, mid-range, or high-end housing. There aren’t enough apartments or houses.
Vacancy rates have been chronically low and demand is only increasing. There are a lot of plans in the works, including new subdivisions, apartment buildings, and higher density developments.
But in the middle of all this, quite literally in the middle of our city, sits a large supply of unused housing — the 2nd and 3rd floor residences above many of your favourite local shops and cafes in downtown Peterborough.
Redevelopment of these upper floor units is happening, but the pace is slow. Despite the demand and increasing rising real estate and lease rates, many of these units remain too costly to renovate. It’s no surprise that buildings built more than 100 years ago — long before building or fire codes — would require a lot of work to make them safe and liveable again. But with the right incentives, these underused assets could provide our community with desperately needed housing and become an economic catalyst in the heart of our city.
We are asking the Government of Ontario to:
1. Designate the Downtown Revitalization Program to be used for a pilot project that allows private building owners and municipal officials to study and assess, using an independent
consultant and without punitive action, the needs of a building or series of buildings in a downtown core.
2. Allow for a renovation plan or commitment to be worked out that is agreeable to the property owner and the municipality.
3. Allow for a coordinated approach to intensification and heritage preservation that takes into consideration a community’s current building stock and its ability to function in a contemporary economy.
4. Allow for intensification districts just outside the core, but within the designated built-up area that can be developed in tandem with the Urban Growth Area and not impact the current
5. Study the effect of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act on the viability of the
intensification projects of existing buildings.
Heads and Beds Levy
The provincial government does not pay property tax on its real estate holdings. Instead, it makes payments in lieu of property taxes as a way to compensate municipalities. For places like colleges, universities, hospitals, and correctional facilities, that payment comes through a “heads and beds” levy. This rate increased from $50 set in 1973 to $75 in 1987. The rate has remained unchanged ever since.
In 1987, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney was negotiating a free trade agreement with the US, Michael Jackson’s “Bad” was on its way to the top of the charts, and I was just learning to walk. It’s safe to say a lot has changed since then.
If the “Heads and Beds” levy had kept pace with inflation, the province would currently be paying $148. We realize that’s a tall ask, especially given the current budget constraints. We’re asking the Province to increase the levy to $100 and tie future increases to inflation.
Why is this important? Because right now the tax payers of Peterborough — residents and businesses alike — are subsidizing provincial buildings. The nature of Provincial services is that they serve a broad role for a larger community as part of a high-level strategy for a stronger province. The “Heads and Beds” levy is supposed to keep things fair by having all Ontario residents pay their share for provincial services, but without an update to the levy, it’ll be up to the tax payers in the City of Peterborough to make up the difference.