Kelowna city council will address an issue Monday on the minds of all local residents looking for rental living accommodations—expanding the rental unit availability pool by allowing secondary suites in more single-family homes in the city.
Kelowna city hall made to move to permit secondary suites throughout the city in September 2012 but, at the time, did not include comprehensive development zones that permit single family housing and non-standard zones.
On Tuesday, council will be asked to amend the bylaw to include those two areas.
In a report from the city planning department, council is being told the city has a limited ability to diversify of housing stock to meet the rental needs of the community.
But one tool at its disposal is to ease the secondary suite policy and zoning regulations to allow homeowners an additional revenue source to supplement their income, assist a family member in need or increase the value of their property.
By doing so, the city help provide affordable housing options that are limited for renters with minimal impact to existing neighbourhoods.
The need for this change is illustrated by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s 2015 Fall Rental Market Survey, which revealed rental vacancies in the Kelowna Census Metropolitan Area reached their lowest point in 2014 with an apartment vacancy rate of one per cent, compared to 1.8 per cent in 2013.
The report cites several reasons for the rental availability shortfall: Employment levels growing modestly for 15 to 24 age bracket of workers with youth employment being a key driver of rental housing demand; rising enrolment at UBC Okanagan; and increased migration to Kelowna of people looking for jobs. That is coupled with a trend of builders shying away from building new rental units.
As well, there were an estimated 2,103 secondary rental units as of October 2014, up from 1,351 the previous year, and that number is expected to continue to escalate.
Further, based on business license and BC Assessment Authority statistics, there are 631 properties in Kelowna that have a business license for a suite and also assessed as having a renter. However, there are 1,771 that are assessed as having a rental suite but do not have a current business license.
There are also 482 properties with a current business license but not presently assessed as currently renting out a suite.
Staff recommends that strata developments still leave their strata councils with final say on whether or not to allow secondary suites and that Gallagher’s Canyon neighbourhood still prohibit secondary suites because the privately-owned sewage treatment plant is nearing capacity and there are no plans to extend municipal infrastructure services to the community.