For Lang­ford, tax breaks translate into mil­lions of dol­lars in in­vest­ments

Times Colonist - - Front Page - CHARLA HU­BER

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.

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