Thunder Bay has one of the highest home ownership in the country. I have been a homeowner myself since 1974. This pride in ownership is reflected in the beautiful homes we see throughout the city and in the number of awards won every year (most recent, "Four Blooms Award").
There is much to celebrate about home ownership in Thunder Bay, and as Budget and Finance chair I have helped establish some clear objectives to ensure that we streamlined the process of building and owning a home, while maintaining taxes and user fees at a reasonable level, so that we can all enjoy a great quality of life.
I pledged to bring taxes down to a more reasonable level from a
projected high of 6-7% increases (Chamber of Commerce Study by Lakehead
University), and through a respectful and collaborative effort with
management and staff of the city, cost controls of budget items, a
program of continuous improvement (finding ways of doing things better,
working smarter), and economic growth and expansion, taxes were reduced
to a much lower 2.43% increase in the 2018 budget (below the cost of
Municipal inflation of around 3% but still higher than the consumer
price index of just below 2%).
This was accomplished without cutting services and after a reduction of $23 million in taxable assessment from Resolute, Grain elevators and Canadian Tires.
There is no doubt that water rates have increased substantially in the last 10 years but have slowed down to an average of 3% increase per year in the last 3 years, as we brought more financial accountability at City Hall. I am committed to continue to look for savings for homeowners and not increase water rates above the level of inflation, which would in fact freeze the rates in real terms.
Home Constructions and Sales
The last four years appear to have been one of improvement for housing, multi-residential and condos starts with the combined total value of building permits going higher than the last 15 year average. Through the new Official Plan, the city has created more opportunities for infilling in the core and urban areas where more than 60% of development now occurs. This will help in keeping the cost of services down and provide a more balanced approach to development.
We also want to ensure that there are sufficient lots for any growth in demand and the lot inventory in the city is at over 10 years of projected current growth. The infilling and current lot inventory should provide more than enough supply for when the mining and Ring of Fire takes off. We need to ensure that we are ready for our planned development for housing (make more lots available and make it easier to build a home) so that prices remain affordable for young families and seniors.
The above issues of taxation for residential and multi-residential properties, having affordable homes for young families starting out or seniors moving into condos or rental units, keeping user fees low, controlling cost of new home construction, are directly linked to the economic opportunities and clear vision for the future of our city and region, especially in relation to planning and development for housing that takes full account of our changing demographics.Solutions
I have identified 4 key priorities. They are:
- A clear sense of direction for our city especially in the areas of housing development for the expected growth in mining
- Job Creation through business retention and expansion of the Small & Medium-Sized companies that create over 80 percent of the jobs
- Continued leadership and financial accountability in the budget process and spending by Council and Administration
- The need for a new approach to crime prevention and community safety, to enable us to attract more young families and grow our city.
As Mayor I will work with Council and administration to implement a comprehensive Strategic Plan to “Awaken Thunder Bay’s Giant Potential” (based on the above priorities) that will address the fundamental issues our community is facing.
This plan needs clear, realistic and measurable goals by which a Mayor and Council can be judged on (accountability in government). Maintaining and enhancing the value of your home, keeping residential taxes and user fees stable, are part and parcel of this program.