Kelowna City Hall. (Michael Rodriguez - Capital News)

Kelowna City Hall. (Michael Rodriguez - Capital News)

Kelowna would need to invest $204M to address lack of affordable housing

Mayor Colin Basran says deficit caused by lack of provincial and federal investment; city can’t tackle issue alone

Kelowna would have to invest $204 million into land acquisition over the next 10 years to fully address the city’s growing need for affordable housing.

That’s according to a report from city staff outlining the development of an affordable housing land acquisition strategy (AHLAS), presented to council on Monday (Jan. 18). The AHLAS would provide a plan of action for how the city can fund and optimize land acquisition for new affordable housing developments.

“That’s crazy to me,” Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran remarked of the sizable deficit. “It just goes to show the deficit that has been created by the lack of investment by the provincial and federal governments for decades.

“We, as a municipality, have done a lot to address that … but we’re not going to be able to do it alone.”

READ MORE: Council approves designation for Kelowna’s Benvoulin Heritage Park

READ MORE: BC Housing hoping to build 20-storey rental housing tower in downtown Kelowna

Of Kelowna’s estimated 19,600 rental households, staff said 9,200 as being in “core housing need,” of which 4,150 are in “extreme core housing need”. Households that spend more than 30 per cent of their income on housing are noted as being in core housing need while those spending upwards of 50 per cent of their total income on rent is defined as being in extreme core housing need. Staff expects those numbers to increase over the next 10 years.

To provide land for affordable housing projects, the city plans to put $400,000 from the 2022 budget in its housing opportunities reserve, double what it currently contributes to the fund. By 2023, that yearly contribution is set to be increased another 50 per cent to $600,000 a year, allowing for the city to set aside $2.2 million to fund affordable housing land acquisition over the next four years — significantly short of the amount the city claims it would need to address the issue.

But the AHLAS is set to be a vital tool in ensuring upper levels of government and other agencies do their part.

While housing is typically a provincial responsibility, the report states local governments have taken larger roles as housing challenges continue to grow. Staff’s report suggests the AHLAS would support the city’s relationship with groups like BC Housing, allowing the city to get the ball rolling more quickly on new projects by offering purchased land in exchange for much needed new affordable housing developments.

“We can’t keep letting this deficit continue to pile up because it ends up with more people on our streets,” said Basran.

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