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UBC’s land model would ensure legacy of Surrey lands for future generations

Surrey, B.C. (November 23, 2022): Surrey First Councillor Mike Bose is bringing a notice of motion to council that would reinstate the Surrey City Development Corporation (SCDC), which was originally set up to ensure city-owned land was leveraged to benefit the city’s future, but was shut down by Doug McCallum in 2020.

“Doug McCallum shut down SCDC which was an arms-length, for-profit corporation owned by the city, and brought it inside city hall to make it easier for him to sell-off city lands, something that should never have happened in the first place,” said Bose. “City lands are a legacy for future generations, and we should be taking the same approach as UBC where they lease their lands, rather than selling them. Once a piece of land is sold, it’s gone forever, but with leases there’s an annual return and a legacy for future generations which retain ownership of the land.”

“Rather than selling off city land, Surrey should follow the UBC Properties Trust model which generates ongoing revenue through long-term leases, while UBC continues to own its land,” said Surrey First Councillor Linda Annis. “We can learn a lot from the UBC model which provides long-term leases, but doesn’t sell the land. In the process, UBC takes home a big dividend each year, giving the university an ongoing and sustainable stream of new revenue. In fact, since its inception in 1988, the trust has endowed UBC with some $2 billion.”

Bose said land is the City of Surrey’s most valuable city asset and needs to be protected for future generations.

“We have only so much city land and when it’s gone, it’s gone,” noted Bose. “Today our land portfolio is worth about $250 million, and we should be leasing it, rather than selling it for a quick hit of cash that does nothing for the future of our city.”

Annis said selling off the city’s land is both short-sighted and a poor business model.

“Over a seven-year period, SCDC paid the city $36 million in dividends,” added Annis. “We need to bring back SCDC and put it to work leveraging our land in ways that help attract jobs, business, and new housing with long-term benefits and value for our city.”

Bose said the UBC Properties Trust model would bring ongoing benefits to Surrey.

“SCDC would make sure we are getting value from our land, while keeping ownership for future generations,” said Bose. “We need to make sure city lands are not vulnerable to politics, because it is too easy to simply sell off our land as a knee-jerk decision or a way to solve a temporary issue such as a deficit. City lands belong to everyone in Surrey, including future generations. Our job is to put those lands to work, but never sell off that heritage. We should be holding those lands in trust for future generations, because when we own our own land it means we have options, opportunities and dividends for years to come.”