Category Archives: July 5 2007 meeting

Envisioning a Sustainable Future; the example of Craik, Sask.

by Camelia Frieberg
An ever-growing number of towns in Canada have chosen to revitalize their communities with sustainability as the key guiding principle. The example explored below is from a small town in Saskatchewan named Craik. It shares a number of similarities to Mahone Bay and also some differences, but as a model of a rural town, one hour from Saskatoon that had a desire and need to revitalize itself, the example can be very instructive.

In the 1970’s a new highway by-passed the town and the big box stores that moved out to the highway contributed to the eventual loss of numerous retail stores and services in town. By 2001 the population had dwindled to just over 400 people, the local school was also having a difficult time filling classrooms.

In 2001 the town began working in partnership with other nearby towns and the rural municipality on a long-term plan for a sustainable community based project starting with a socio-economic profile/survey. Speakers were brought in to meet and discuss various topics. Amongst them was a retired professor whose idea of creating an “eco-village” was pitched first to this group and then to the town council. They decided to start with a demonstration building that could serve as a model of cutting edge green technologies and offer a place to hold workshops, seminars and other community activities. The Craik Sustainable Living Project is involved in 4 phases of this project:
1) Eco-Village: lots available for a nominal price to those who put forth proposals for homes that utilize green techniques
2) Eco-Centre: large multi-purpose building that is both demonstration site and community building with restaurant and rental space
3) Outreach and Education: curriculum for grades school, library on sustainable topics and climate change, Solar Fairs and trade shows based on sustainable living and green technologies
4) Community Action: competitions between local towns to meet the One Tonne Challenge, waste management alternatives, etc.

Over the last five years the town has managed to turn themselves around in very significant ways. They have welcomed 47 new families over the last year and a half! They have hosted fairs and trade shows and brought hundreds of people to their community to learn from their example. They have attracted a large-scale business that will build a factory for processing hemp and natural fibres using green technologies and thereby create dozens of new jobs. They have a chemical-free nine-hole golf course that attracts many players. They have received national and international coverage as a leading example of how a small community can thrive and benefit from the choices they have made together in envisioning their future.

For more information on Craik: http://www.craikecovillage.ca/

FUNDING: Some sources of funding used by Craik and available for communities looking to build a sustainable future:

Green Municipal Fund: grants and low cost loans available for capital projects and sustainable community development needs. http://sustainablecommunities.fcm.ca/GMF/

EcoAction: funding for up to 50% of costs for projects that take positive action at community level. http://www.ec.gc.ca/ecoaction/what_is_e.html

paper prepared by Camelia Frieberg. Printer-friendly PDF

Establishing a Mahone Bay Housing Development Corporation

DISCUSSION PAPER ON ESTABLISHING A MAHONE BAY HOUSING DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION

by Veryan Haysom

ASSUMPTIONS:

  1. Mahone Bay requires special-needs housing for elders, as well as affordable housing to encourage young families to live in Mahone Bay.
  2. The Town of Mahone Bay has publicly owned land that could be used for housing.
  3. The Town of Mahone Bay wants to maximize its revenues from housing developments in the town.
  4. Publicly owned assets are to be publicly developed for the benefit of the whole town.

One approach to address housing needs and maximize revenues to the Town of Mahone Bay

A. Incorporate a for-profit Mahone Bay Housing Development Corporation.
The mandate of the Corporation would be to:
1. buy land in the Town of Mahone Bay, whether publicly or privately owned;
2. buy and renovate existing buildings in town; and
3. develop, own and operate apartment buildings, condominiums and housing units in Mahone Bay to:
a) supply housing for elders who are residents of the town and have special needs;
b) create a supply of affordable housing in Mahone Bay to encourage young families to locate in the town; and
c) increase housing stock in the town.

The Town of Mahone Bay would own the Corporation and would hold all the voting shares.

If it gets at least 90% of its income from operations in the town, the Corporation’s income would not be taxable under the Income Tax Act (Section 149).

B. Transfer ownership of the 2.9-acre Town-owned lot on Kinburn Street (at the northern corner of Kinburn and Hawthorn Streets) to the Corporation.

The Corporation could seek development financing from other lenders but the Town would hold a second mortgage, at a commercial rate of interest,
for the market value of the property in exchange for the land transfer. The Corporation would then have a valuable asset ($350,000 assessed value) with which to launch its business.

C. The Corporation would pay Town property and commercial taxes and be treated as any other private developer of privately owned land in the town.

This would provide the Town with tax revenues for the assessed value of the land, change-of-use taxes and commercial taxes.

D. The Corporation would be free to develop the land and any other property it buys on the basis of described needs of town elders and the demands of the housing market, in accordance with its mandate.

Housing currently occupied by town elders who move into the Corporation’s facilities would then become available on the Mahone Bay housing market.

The Corporation could make money from:

1. rent and potential capital appreciation if properties are leased; or
2. proceeds from unit sales, subdivision or converting its property to condominiums; or
3. both.

As previously noted, the Corporation’s revenue would not be subject to payment of income taxes.

Net income from operations would be available for re-investment in the development of Mahone Bay housing or for payment to the Town as dividends.

Note: This short paper cannot fully address the financing of the development of housing by the Corporation. Financing options might include: federal or provincial program funding, bank financing with federal or provincial guarantees or even public/private infrastructure funding (e.g., pension funds or other capital pools seeking long-term, stable rental streams) with capital appreciation. Another option would be a joint venture with a private developer with project development expertise. â–¡

Concept proposed by Veryan Haysom

Printer friendly copy of the above (PDF)

How development should be adding to our resources, not trading off one for another

By Alleson Kase

I believe that successful community development builds on existing community resources, including the participation of community residents. It adds to what is already present in the community, while respecting the concerns of its members, rather than trading one resource for another.

GOALS

1. Preservation of existing resources of Mahone Bay

 Preserve current recreational resources
 The soccer field at the Old School
 Walking trails
 Under this and every other point, please add the many concerns that I’ve left out
 Preserve natural environments
 Woodland plants and animals
 Watershed
 Preserve character and ambience of Mahone Bay
 ‘Village’ feel/look/sound of residential neighbourhoods and commercial streets
 Blend of diverse residential architectural styles representing 150 years of local craftsmanship

2. Increase long-term sustainability of Mahone Bay

 Increase the Town’s revenue to meet expense of necessary maintenance and improvements
 Increase town’s tax base
 Increase number of residents and/or residential units
 Preserve and/or increase desirability of the town as a location for businesses
 Increase quantity of good quality and accessible housing for an aging population as well as new residents
 Avoid down-loading external costs of development onto current tax payers
 Increase diversity of population
 Increase total number of year-round residents (by 25 – 30%?)
 Broaden demographics (age, income, etc.)
 Increase viability of local businesses
 Larger customer base
 Larger pool of potential employees
 Attract new businesses with growth potential

POPULATION TRENDS and CONCERNS

A discussion of development plans for Mahone Bay would also benefit from an awareness of current real estate and population trends. A recent study by Scotia Economics predicts a gradual cooling of Canada’s real estate market; those sales that do occur will likely be limited to specific sectors and populations.

 Nationally, the age group most likely to buy a home in any given year — those aged 25-44 years — will grow by only 2% in Canada in the next decade.
 Growth in the younger portion of that group — those 25-34 — will support moderate demand for entry-level homes and condos in urban centres close to employment opportunities.
 The numbers of the older portion of that group — those aged 35-44 — are expected to decline in the same period, cooling off the already under-performing market for suburban homes.
 During this same period, most population ‘growth’ by age group will be amongst older Canadians (i.e., the post-WWII baby-boomers who are approaching retirement age).
 The number of Canadians aged 45-64 is projected to rise by 15%; the number over 65 will jump by an extraordinary 65%!
 These Canadians will likely create what demand growth there is in residential real estate with purchases that “move-up” (in quality) and “down-size” (in square footage). This trend will favour condos, vacation homes and urban areas with greater services.
 Immigration will account for two-thirds of Canada’s population growth in the coming decade, and perhaps Canada’s only source of population growth by 2030.
 While historically lower wage rates translate to lower rates of homeownership among new Canadians, immigrant families who do buy homes are more likely to buy in major cities.

The above points predict a very sluggish market for entry-level homes located in small towns and suburbs for the next several decades — the very types that are proposed in Bob Youden’s concept.

HOW DO WE MOVE FORWARD?

A mutually agreeable solution would need to address all of the above. We can…

 tap into the creativity of residents to help arrive at a variety of solutions, which will also better reflect the current diversity of lot sizes, housing styles, market values, etc.;
 develop a substantial number of new residential units designed for the most likely market;
 spread units over several locations (for example,
4 sites that total 16 acres rather than a single 16 acre site);
 preserve current resources while developing new ones;
 focus future development on lands that would benefit from renewal (i.e., old pastureland, recent clear-cuts, flood-damaged lots, old derelict houses, etc.);
 position seniors’ units in areas that provide safe and easy access (flat terrain within walking distance of amenities);
explore creative financing ideas

FOOTNOTES

1. – I haven’t used the term “affordable” because Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) states
“To be considered affordable, a homeowner project must have unit sale prices which are below the average price for similar units in the market.”
I don’t consider that the concept presented by Bob Youden meets CMHC’s definition.
2. – http://novascotiabusinessjournal.com

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Alleson Kase, 51 Main Street, Mahone Bay, 624-0427