As a child growing up in Brampton my fondest memory is spending time at Professor’s Lake taking turns on the blue slide with my cousins. Our city was built with parks, trails and greenspace that connect us with nature and provide ample opportunity to spend time with family and friends.
As a young person I learned to swim at Balmoral Recreation Centre, enjoyed Canada Days at Chinguacousy Park, and hopped on the #1 Queen Bus with my subsidized pink bus tickets to get to the Chinguacousy library and study for exams. As a parent, I enjoy family time with my son and nieces at public skate days and taking them to gymnastics and summer camp programs. Of course, we also have a world-class water and sanitation system.
The City of Brampton and Region of Peel, like all municipalities, are the champions who deliver these services and much more to support a high quality of life. As we grow, we must also maintain all of the services at the levels we’ve come to expect and deserve.
Our city’s Housing Pledge commitment of 113,000 new units by 2031, comes with financial responsibility to build the infrastructure and expand services that support the population increase. We developed a plan to appease higher orders of government, signed on to their pledges, and now conservatively estimate the need for $2B ($200M annually) for new infrastructure to achieve this pledge. This does not include the cost of repairs or maintenance of existing infrastructure already near breaking point. The alternative without funding from the provincial and federal governments to achieve this growth is a ridiculous 40% property tax increase. Property tax payers will never accept such an enormous hike, nor should they. Our federal and provincial governments must step-up for Brampton and every municipality facing these budget-busting housing targets. Below is a chart capturing the Region of Peel’s 10 year capital costs for infrastructure.
BILL 23 Budget Implications for Region of Peel 2024
Cost to achieve the provincial housing target is over double the current 10 year capital budget for the Region of Peel.
Source: Progress on Infrastructure Planning to Support Bill 23 Housing Targets
Brampton recently received $114M from the federal government’s $4B Housing Accelerator Fund. This funding will fast track the construction of more than 3,150 residential units over the next three years and the development of more than 24,000 homes over the next decade. We welcome the support, however, put in context this is merely 57% of what Brampton needs in a single year, and only 5.7% of the estimated $2 billion worth of infrastructure needed to deliver 113,000 units. We hope that more funding announcements will come from the federal government in upcoming years and look to the province to make similar commitments.
Municipalities were promised by the provincial government to be “made whole” as a result of legislation like Bill 23 (More Hoes Built Faster Act). Bill 23 may result in a loss of $1.2B in development charges (DCs) to the City of Brampton and we have not received any firm commitment from the provincial government on replacing this funding source. Bill 23 also proposes less parkland per development and poorer quality parkland. Should Bill 23 pass as written, the City, in the worst possible scenario, could expect a one-time property tax increase of approximately 80%.
These detrimental funding changes are happening while residents continue to wait in our one-and-only emergency department for the construction of our second hospital as promised by the provincial government. We also wait for provincial support to complete our Riverwalk project and unlock development in our downtown core. We also wait to fully understand the financial impact of the provincially mandated dissolution of Peel.
Desperately Needed New Funding for Canada’s Cities
Property taxes and development charges are the main revenue tools at the city’s disposal to pay for all the services residents use and rely on everyday for the quality of life we expect. This year, the province legislated “Strong Mayor Powers” to Brampton which means that this year’s budget process is driven by the Mayor. I’m relieved that we have a collaborative Mayor in Patrick Brown, who engages with his Council on city priorities. We need the same collaboration and fairness with the provincial and federal governments who have a much broader net of revenue through income and sales taxes that increase with population and economic growth.
Municipal Property Tax Comparison
Adjusted for 2021 dollars, Municipal property taxes has significantly lagged other forms of taxation over the past 5 years
As a city, we are tasked with maintaining more than 60% of public infrastructure with less than 10% of every tax dollar collected by all orders of government. This municipal funding model hasn’t changed for over 150 years and continues to squeeze municipalities and property tax payers. Local leaders are raising their voice for change. The Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) is calling for a national discussion around a new Municipal Growth Framework. As the Chair of FCM’s Municipal Finance, Infrastructure and Transportation Committee I understand the challenges deeply. We must link local resources to national dynamics such as population and economic growth. Here in Brampton, our City Council passed a motion to support FCM’s efforts in developing and advocating for a new Municipal Growth Framework. As other municipalities sign on we are hopefully that all orders of government will come to a new agreement that ensures our quality of life.
Spirit of Resilience
I am privileged to live in Brampton with my family. We face challenges at all orders of government in building the infrastructure and providing the services to maintain a high quality of life. We are also facing an inflation and affordability challenge that most of us have never experienced. I remain hopeful and remember what my dad tells me: “Your children are your investment and your grandchildren are the return on your investment”. Cities like Brampton are built on the spirit of immigrants and families who are resilient, tenacious, compassionate, hard working. All orders of government need to work together in the same spirit so that everyone can realize the Canadian dream as we build for the future.
You made it through my 4 part series to explain the housing and affordability challenges we face in Brampton and in communities across Canada. Thank you for going on this journey with me. Please email my your thoughts and ideas on specific policy ideas you have or feedback on what I have shared. Reach me by email at email@example.com
About the Author
Rowena Santos is a Regional Councillor for the City of Brampton / Region of Peel. She sits as Brampton’s representative on the Board for FCM, and Chair of its Committee of Municipal Finance, Infrastructure and Transportation. Read More.