LRT, RIM, Taxes, Northdale and real estate in Kitchener Waterloo

There is always so much happening around Kitchener Waterloo. Its all interrelated at least to our taxes, neighborhoods and lifestyle.

With the LRT given the green light to spend, the council awarded its first contract last week. The international engineering firm Parsons Brinckerhoff Halsall Inc. will help regional government prepare design criteria for a different private partner who will be chosen by council in 2014 to design, build and operate trains for up to 30 years. Parsons Brinckerhoff Halal’s website shows they consult on an array of projects from resort hotels to power plants.

Many residents of Waterloo Region are wary of the LRT in light of the RIM park mess. The good news is that the Rim Park financing fiasco is finally over. Legal action pursuing former city treasurer and the employees of the firm that financed RIM Park came to a close. The bad news is the lawsuits put taxpayers another $2.6M in the hole.

It costs a lot to live in Waterloo. Of the three cities in the Region, Waterloo’s taxes are the highest. They may get higher still. We may have an $11 million hit in the form of a subsidy to improve a neighborhood in decline and prevent a complete Waterloo student ghetto in Northdale. The subsidies would go to developers and owners to encourage them to build better, higher buildings. Development was frozen about a month ago while the area undergoes more studies. The current plan led to too many owners and developers building boxy structures filled with student bedrooms.

More good news for KW, at least if you’re a homeowner. The real estate market is showing no signs of fatigue. The average sale price in Kitchener Waterloo increased 1.9% in April to $316,023 on a year-over-year basis. The average price in Cambridge rose 2.4% to $294,668. Kitchener Waterloo Realtors sold 672 homes last month, an increase of 8.9% from the 617 homes that changed hands in the same month a year ago.

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