Agassiz’s secondary suites will continue to pay a reduced amount of water and sewer, after Kent council gave three readings to its water and sewer bylaws Monday night (Dec. 9).
The new water and sewer bylaws outlined rate changes for Agassiz, Mount Woodside and the Rockwell Bay areas over the next four years.
In Agassiz and Rockwell Bay, both metered and non-metered water rates will increase two per cent each year to keep up with general inflation. A single-family homeowner in the Agassiz townsite will pay $27.27 a month for water service in 2020 — or $6.42 more than 2019 — increasing to $28.94 a month by 2023.
For Mount Woodside, the flat water rates will also go up two per cent each year — $46.48 in 2020, or $10.92 more than 2019 — although metered rates for water usage over 75 cubic metres will be maintained at the 2019 rate ($2.85/m³).
Sewer rates will also see the same pattern of increase, with Agassiz, Rockwell Bay and the flat Mount Woodside rates seeing a two per cent annual increase, while the metered Mount Woodside rates will stay the same as in 2019.
The increases to the rates will go to improve capital projects related to the water and sewer systems in the District of Kent.
In addition to the rate increases, there will also be an introduction of metered rates for third-party fire hydrant users: $0.92/m³ in Agassiz and $1.85/m³ in Mount Woodside. The enhanced fire protection fee will also be increasing from $10 to $12 — the first increase the fee has seen since it was introduced in 2010.
During the council discussion Monday, district staff brought forward the idea of increasing the water and sewer rates for secondary suites. Currently, secondary suite rates are half the amount of single-family homes; the proposal would have seen them increase to be equal to those costs.
“Part of our long-term plan is to increase density in the town here, and I think secondary suites is an option to do that,” councillor Stan Watchorn said.
“The cost of secondary suite water and sewer rates would be very high on top of the two per cent that’s going forward.”
Councillor Susan Spaeti agreed.
“If we’re looking at densifying in our downtown, I think increasing from say a $24 change to $440, that might turn off some people to have secondary suites,” she said.
If the proposal had been approved, single-family homeowners with a secondary suite would have seen an increase of $436.68 for their combined water and sewer costs in 2020.
“The development of secondary suites should be encouraged, and I think this is something that would discourage it,” she added.
“It’s already difficult to find rental units here in the District of Kent, and if we’re going to increase it by over $400, people are just going to pass it on to the rent and it’s going to be more and more difficult to find secondary suites or small places for affordable housing.”
Since that idea was not approved, secondary suite costs will remain half of the single-family residential costs, and increase at two per cent each year.
Kent council gave three readings to the bylaws Monday night, and will meet at 4 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 12 to give final adoption to the bylaws.