Mississauga Seeking Funding for Major Transit and Development Projects

 

When it comes to transit and development, cities have their work cut out for them.

While everyone loves to complain about shortfalls in their local transit systems (buses being late, infrequent and over-crowded are common grievances), few people are quick to agree to property tax increases to bolster said systems. People also gripe about infrastructure and, in the case of suburbs, the lack of walkability and "things to do."

People want fast, reliable and first-class transit and a slew of destinations right outside their door—but they don't necessarily want to pay for it.

And in some cases, steady increases in property taxes—which accompany natural increases in overall living costs—are indeed a hardship for residents.

So, what's a city to do?

One: you do raise taxes to continue to invest in infrastructure and transit.

Two: You ask the province and country—both of whom have emphasized the importance of growing regional transit systems—for help.

On the first point, the city recently confirmed that residents will be paying higher property taxes this year compared to last (which is relatively normal). According to the city, residents can expect an $83.08 increase on the city’s portion of the property tax on an average residential property valued at $645,000 (or $12.88 per $100,000 of assessment).

The total increase in Mississauga’s residential property tax will be 2.90 per cent. The increase includes 1.56 per cent for city services and 1.34 per cent for Region of Peel services.

According to the city, the lion’s share of taxes will go MiWay (22 per cent).

To better grow its transit and overall infrastructure, however, the city has also adopted a resolution to urge the governments of Canada and Ontario to provide ongoing support.

Specifically, Mississauga is looking for strategic transit investments, sustainable infrastructure funding, legislative change and support to help increase affordable housing, investment in development of the city's waterfront and other city-building initiatives continued partnerships.

"Mississauga is a city in demand - a place where people choose to be. Our City requires long-term, sustainable and predictable funding from the federal and provincial levels of government to ensure that we can continue to build Mississauga into a world-class city that is ready for whatever the future may hold," said Mayor Bonnie Crombie.

"Our key priorities remain building and maintaining aging infrastructure, getting shovels in the ground to build more affordable middle-class housing and connecting people to jobs and prosperity by building regionally connected transit. We also need to invest in keeping our city safe and advancing on our plan to address the impacts of climate change. Cities power the nation. That's why it's so important that as the two governments prepare for this year's budgets, they listen to our priorities and that of other municipalities. Only by working together, will we remain prosperous both now and in the future."

Asking for help makes sense, as Mississauga is poised to undergo extensive growth and development over the coming years. The city is about to welcome a massive light-trail transit (LRT) project and close to 50 new condo towers in its downtown core as a result (although not every tower has been approved).

It's also moving forward on redeveloping its waterfront through a number of high-profile projects, including Port Credit West Village (former Imperial Oil Lands), Port Credit Harbour Marina and Lakeview Village (former OPG Lands). The city also points out that dedicated funding is needed for transit initiatives such as the Downtown Transitway Connection, the Regional Express Rail and Dundas Connects.

You can actually read more about these initiatives here.

Since the city can only generate revenue in so many ways (property taxes, development charges, etc), it does need some TLC from the federal and provincial governments. The city rightfully mentions that even though its waterfront redevelopment projects are substantial, they haven't received nearly as much investment as Toronto.

In its federal pre-budget submission, the city points out that Toronto has been able to revitalize much of its 43-km lakefront through its funding partnership arrangement with the provincial and federal governments (Waterfront Toronto).

According to the document, Toronto has received over $1.8 billion from senior levels of governments since 1990, whereas Mississauga has received $4 million in the same time period.

While 1990 was a long time ago and the preference for Toronto over what was essentially a bedroom community made sense for sometime, Mississauga's growth does demand increased attention and, by extension, investment.

"The City of Mississauga is seeking enhanced funding in order to proceed with the development of a sustainable and creative community along its 22-km waterfront. The two projects on the more immediate horizon include the Port Credit Harbour Marina and Inspiration Lakeview."

The city points out that it's challenging for it to generate revenue.

“Like all municipalities, Mississauga receives the smallest share (eight to 10 per cent) of all tax dollars collected in Canada, yet we own 60 per cent of the infrastructure," said Janice Baker, City Manager and Chief Administrative Officer.

“Strong, long-term partnerships with the governments of Canada and Ontario are essential to ensuring that Mississauga continues to provide the high quality of life residents have come to expect." 

The city argues that, with federal and provincial funding support, Mississauga can continue to successfully plan for the long term.

The pre-budget submissions went to council for approval on February 6.

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