The argument for urban intensification, in addition to the environmental benefits, is that it is cheaper because high rise and denser construction can take advantage of existing sewer and water infrastructure. But a city staff report suggests we may be getting maxed out in water and wastewater capacity in certain areas of the downtown, and we need to do some testing to find out exactly how much additional capacity we have. At present development charges in the city core are heavily discounted to encourage intensification, but the staff report suggests we need to reduce those discounts in order to raise money for future service enhancements that will be needed in the older city. Says the report, “There are no servicing studies (water, wastewater and roads growth infrastructure) for … Downtown Hamilton… or the nodes and corridors areas of the City. Without such servicing studies, the costs of intensification cannot be quantified, nor can staff justify or defend area specific charges.
“As an example, in certain areas of the older parts of the City, there may be no existing wastewater pipe capacity. Staff have not yet determined the future size of pipe required, the length of pipe which should be oversized and what roads would have to be disturbed to accommodate this work.”
It hasn’t been a complete free ride for downtown developers. The report notes that as a result of the city’s downtown loans programs, properties that were producing little or no taxes are now pouring an additional $3.6 Million into city coffers. The report on development charges shows Hamilton in the upper half of the standings compared to other Ontario cities in its development charges. Under the proposed rate increase the development charges applied to each new home built in Hamilton will be close to $35,000, up from the current $28,000.