Kelowna’s Healthy Housing Strategy to tackle housing crunch

Strategy proposes 23 recommendations to help ease the current housing crisis in the city

The City of Kelowna could attack the current housing crunch with a wide variety of weapons, including added incentives for the development of rental housing, zoning changes, more partnerships with outside agencies, possible relaxation of parking requirements and a push to find what the city calls the “missing middle,” alternate housing types to the typical single-family home or multi-family condo building.

Council was briefed on development of Kelowna’s Healthy Hosing Strategy Monday, a plan being put together in conjunction with the city’s work to address homelessness though its Journey Home initiative.

Planner James Moore said the strategy contains 23 recommendations in six categories but each will have to be investigated and thoroughly debated by council before being approved. As a result the strategy could take years to be fully implemented.

Members of council were surprised when Moore told them secondary suites are not included in the calculation of the vacancy rate in Kelowna by Canada Mortgage and Housing. That rate is currently sits at an ultra-low 0.2 per cent, one of the lowest in the country.

Coun. Gail Given called the revelation an “aha moment” for council.

Her colleague, Coun. Charlie Hodge, said he was surprised by that, saying council has been approving secondary suite and carriage houses in the belief it would help increase the vacancy rate.

Moore said CMHC estimates there are about 5,000 secondary suites—including carriage houses—in the city.

One of the moves recommended in the Healthy Housing Study is to extend the time a rental building must remain rental to 25 years in order for the developer to get a 10-year tax break from the city. The incentive currently requires the units in a building to remain as rentals for 10 years.

City staff also suggest taking another look at offering incentives at a time when the vacancy rate is low and profitability is high, not the other way around. Mayor Colin Basran said what has been proposed is changing to offer incentives when the vacancy rate is higher in order to get more rental builds at times when developers may not feel the need for it.

As for relaxing parking requirements, council appeared to put the brakes on that, saying it could create problems given parking is always one of the most contentious issues when it comes to development.

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