For Langford, tax breaks translate into millions of dollars in investments
G rowing up on the West Shore today is significantly different for children than it was for their parents.
“Do you remember being in downtown Victoria, and the kids would ask if we had flush toilets?” said Kevin Albers, CEO of M’akola Housing, to Langford Mayor Stew Young over coffee.
Both men grew up on the West Shore when it was unofficially called “Dogpatch.”
“In the ’80s, there were only a few stores here. I remember when Western Foods was built,” said Albers. “As a young person in Langford, the goal was to leave Langford. There was nothing here to do.”
“I grew up in a family of six, and four moved away for jobs,” Young said.
The unemployment rate was high, there weren’t jobs and while there were flush toilets, there weren’t any sewers.
During Young’s first election speech, he shared his vision of Langford becoming a self-sustaining community. That was 25 years ago. The first step was bringing in sewers, which he and his council did in the mid-1990s.
Then still new to journalism, I remember interviewing Young when he told me he was going to bring world-class recreation facilities to Langford. Ten years later, they are here.
Gone are the days when Young and Albers tried to hide where they were from.
Now, the prominent businessmen work together enhancing their home community, by living and working in it, and bringing jobs there, too.
In 2016, Albers moved the two nonprofit organizations he leads to Langford, bringing 30 jobs to the West Shore, including mine.
Working in affordable housing, Langford offered a 10-year tax exemption and waived development fees.
“We moved the office here, because we were supported,” Albers said.
My hour-long commute was cut to 15 minutes. Living and working on the West Shore again has significantly improved my quality of life and reduced my travel costs.
The move to Langford not only saves me money, the 36 families in our building save more than $100 each month on their rent, because the property taxes are waived by the city.
“People don’t wear their salaries on their shirts. With a rental mix in each building, you will never know who is living in affordable housing,” said Young. “In Langford, we have all types of affordable housing; you can walk around town and find a home to suit your income.”
It’s not just affordable housing that’s being offered exemptions. They are also offered to attract employers and service providers, enhancing the community.
If Young is successful in attracting a post-secondary institution, the savings could be passed on to the students.
“We are going to work together with First Nations, the municipalities and the B.C. government on jobs and growing our economy,” Young said. The new economic triangle Young refers to includes the area from Sooke to Langford and up to the Malahat Nation lands.
Already, Langford has demonstrated its success working with First Nations through the monumental boundary readjustment with Metchosin and Beecher Bay this year.
The most recent move in the plan was to bid for Amazon’s second headquarters to move to Langford.
“We want to expand into tech. We are going to get the jobs here and we can do that through tax incentives,” said Young, adding: “Amazon employees can buy a home here. In Vancouver, they’d need to make $150,000 a year.”
Langford is offering these exemptions to non-profits, post-secondary institutions, government offices and more. The first big hotel in Langford was also offered these incentives.
These tax exemptions are translating to millions of dollars in investments.
“In Langford, we are rolling out the red carpet to bring the jobs here. If we bring the jobs, people will get out of their cars and we won’t have a Colwood Crawl,” Young explained.
When I first moved to Langford, my job and home were within minutes of each other. When I wanted to enhance my career, I had to work downtown Victoria and sit in the Colwood Crawl.
Now, I am back in Langford, building my career, and I am still near my home.
“I hear these stories from people all the time. This is the proof that we can make lives better, by bringing jobs here,” Young said.