Almost 60% of Canada’s core public infrastructure is currently owned and maintained by local governments, according to the Canadian Infrastructure Report Card. What’s more, 35% of that infrastructure is in poor or very poor condition. While there is a clear challenge to maintain assets, municipalities are also challenged by unprecedented growth and pressure to develop.
These challenges haven’t gone unnoticed by Stantec community planner Lourette Swanepoel.
Traditionally, land developers operate with a single focus: develop land into livable communities and make a profit. Municipalities are tasked with balancing expanding residential opportunities with the challenges of environmental sustainability. Often, the rising cost of building and maintaining infrastructure such as roadways and water systems isn’t top of mind for municipalities. Unexpected costs or maintenance are transferred on to taxpayers for years to come.
“I noticed a significant need for a tool or process to help municipalities forecast expense and revenue opportunities when it comes to development,” says Lourette. “It’s not just the upfront cost of building new roads or furthering distribution networks. It’s plowing snow, maintaining community centers, or dealing with a disaster like a flood or fire that can quickly add up and put a heavy, unsustainable financial burden on local government finances.”
Related Item: Learn about our land planning services
What if communities were able to plan for the future with more certainty and confidence? What if they had something like a crystal ball, with less fortune and more fact?
Using resources from Stantec’s Research & Development Program (now called Greenlight), Lourette worked in partnership with the British Columbia (BC) Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development (MCSCD) to format a Microsoft Excel-based tool to compare of the cost of different residential development scenarios over a 100-year life cycle.
The Community Lifecycle Infrastructure Costing (CLIC) Tool helps planners forecast, during the planning process, the financial implications of these scenarios. That way, developers and municipalities make informed decisions when designing their communities. The tool won the Planning Institute of BC award and a Canadian Institute of Planning award in 2016.
Related Item: Learn about our Creativity & Innovation Program
When everything CLICs
One of the first municipalities to use the CLIC tool was the City of Prince George, British Columbia. Using the CLIC tool, the City is not only able to look at the potential cost incurred by the municipality as their city grows, it can also evaluate the value of its assets and identify areas that require improvement. By weighing development options, the CLIC tool has encouraged the City to take the financial aspects of planning into consideration.
The City has compared two neighborhoods—a medium-density infill scenario and a low-density subdivision. The life cycle costs over a 100-year timespan are about 21% lower per household in the infill scenario while the revenues were only 14% less per household. Per hectare, the City also collects about 61% more revenue from its land in the infill scenario. In every cash-strapped community, these are savings that should be capitalized on through smarter land development decisions. Why? It frees up valuable dollars to direct towards sustaining high quality assets and services.