Canadian home builders watch for proposed changes to Municipal Government Act
Ryan Scott, President of the Canadian Homebuilders Association, discusses the review of the Municipal Government Act
by Michael Ganley
Photograph Rob McMorris
Alberta Venture: Are you glad this review of the Municipal Government Act (MGA) is going on?
Ryan Scott: The review has gone well and generally we’re supportive of the direction they’ve taken, with the caveat that, at the end of the day, a lot of the direction will come from the regulations, so we have to make sure they get done correctly. But we feel like we’ve been heard and the government has done some significant, good work here.
AV: What message have you delivered?
RS: We’re all about affordability for Albertans. Any cost increase gets borne by the end homebuyer. We don’t want to do anything that will make it more difficult for a person to buy a home. You have to keep that affordability component in mind, and if you do we can live with a lot of things.
AV: What is the most significant proposed change?
RS: The expanding role of the Alberta ombudsman to include oversight of municipalities. This will help encourage accountability. In the past, when issues came up with the MGA, it might have been dealt with at the municipal level. So you’d have someone turning you down and the same group of people would look back at it in review. With the changes, if you have disputes you can go to an impartial third party.
We’re pretty happy this MGA does not include new taxation powers [for municipalities]. That’s a really positive thing, going back to affordability.
We’re also pretty happy that the proposals on environmental and conservation reserves have reflected our input. When you’re looking at an environmental reserve, it’s a piece of land – a ravine or small lake. In the past, there have been opportunities for municipalities to say, “That needs to be an environmental reserve and you have to donate it to the city for that.” Now, it’s subject to compensation to the land owner.
AV: What do you not like?
RS: The one where we have some concern is with the inclusionary zoning. The question is, what does that mean? It means a lot of different things to a lot of different people.
As home builders, we support providing housing for Alberta’s most vulnerable people. We just think inclusionary zoning is an ineffective tool for achieving that. With inclusionary zoning, you’re saying, “This small portion of the population is going to solve a larger community issue.” That’s not fair to the new purchasers of homes, and it’s not taking into account what’s going on behind the need for housing. It’s a larger social issue that we need to deal with and housing is just a portion of that.
AV: What lies ahead for the MGA?
RS: The big challenge is that there’s still more than a year to go for drafting regulations, and they could be written in such a way that we’re not on side anymore, or they could be written in a way that things work out really well. So long as there’s a continued will from government to work together, this could come out quite positively.