Kelowna boosts inner city density with infill housing plan

New zoning will allow two smaller homes and two carriage houses all in one building on regular-sized lots in some neighbourhoods.

One of the designs chosen for infill housing in Kelowna containing four homes—two smaller

Kelowna city council has given initial approval to a sweeping new initiative aimed at squeezing more housing onto existing city lots, a move city staff says will not only create more needed housing but also provide more housing options here.

To start, the Infill Challenge Initiative will allow four homes — two smaller than regular homes and two carriage houses all in one building — to be built on regular-sized lots in a couple of areas of the city.

Those areas include a neighbourhood bordered by Richter Street, Gordon Drive, Clement Avenue and Bernard Avenue in the city’s North End, and a larger area farther south bordered by Ethel Street, Raymer Avenue, Richter Street and Guisachan Road.

To make the plan happen, council will have to change parts of its Official Community Plan, adopt new building rules and change some zoning.

“I can’t remember a single item that needed nine items on the (council) agenda,” said Mayor Colin Basran as council settled in to hear about the infill challenge from city staff.

Council was told by adopting the challenge, the city is putting itself at the forefront of housing across Canada.

Planner James Moore said the adoption of the initiative will address changes in housing options, build what he called “complete” neighbourhoods and allow for the more efficient use of city infrastructure.

He said the infill challenge has been worked on by city staff and a long list of partners, including Interior Health, the local school district, UBC Okanagan, CMHC, residents, neighbourhood associations, developers, builders and realtors for the last 15 months.

And it is hoped the new approach will not be as “polarizing” for residents as infill housing has been in the past in some neighbourhoods.

Last year, a competition was held to find proposals for squeezing more housing on to regular 50 by 120-foot city lots. Two proposals won out, both include four homes—two smaller regular attached homes with two smaller carriage homes at the rear, all in one building. One style looks like a larger single family home and the other is a more contemporary design but with the same housing make up.

Under the city’s plan, new development permit areas would be created in the city to allow for the infill housing.

Boosting density will better use existing city infrastructure such as roads, sewers and utilities, said Moore.

Council liked what it heard, with one councillor, Ryan Donn calling it something the city should be very proud of.

Basran said he has had nothing but positive comments about the plan to create the new zone to allow for the infill housing.

“This is a huge, long-term commitment by the city to good urban planning,” he said.

The proposed changes to allow for the infill challenge initiative will go to a public hearing later this month.