A need for affordable housing has Vernon looking to one neighbour in particular who has failed to build such homes in a long time.
“Since 2016, 94 per cent of Coldstream’s housing starts have been single-family detached, while smaller multi-family dwelling and rental units would help provide affordable and attainable options for seniors downsizing, renters and households looking to move into homeownership,” Vernon Coun. Akbal Mund’s motion reads.
“They are the one district who isn’t on board with building affordable homes. They just don’t want to do it,” Mund said at the Feb. 22 Vernon council meeting.
The rest of Vernon council agreed and is requesting that Coldstream takes steps towards the provision of more diverse housing types to address affordability gaps, identified in a recent regional housing needs assessment.
“Now that we have the housing needs assessment it clearly shows us where we’re lagging, and it’s regionally,” Coun. Kari Gares said. “We all need to step up to the plate.”
Mayor Victor Cumming has spoken with neighbouring Coldstream Mayor Jim Garlick about the issue and has suggests allowing more carriage homes, basement suites and smaller townhomes.
“We’ve found it happening on our side of Middleton Mountain but not on their side of Middleton Mountain,” Cumming said of recent townhome projects.
Garlick said steps have already been taken to provide a zone to legalize secondary suites and the district is working on a process to allow for carriage houses.
There is also land already zoned for multi-family on Middleton and on Highway 6 but development has yet to proceed there. And Coldstream is currently looking at two developments, inclduing a 170-unit complex of smaller homes as well as semi-detached and those with secondary suites.
“Most people in the community are looking for what is already provided but we are looking at how to provide some variety without creating push back from many residents who are happy with what they have,” Garlick said.
He points to the conclusion of the report (page 85), which reads: “With a low existing level of core need and as a relatively higher cost community, there is not necessarily a need for assisted or subsidized housing, although there is demand for some market priced smaller homes to enable empty nesters and singles to downsize and remain in Coldstream. Those who experience affordability issues tend to reside in Vernon where more diverse housing forms exist.”
An application has also been forwarded to remove Coldstream Meadows from the Agricutural Land Reserve, in hopes that the new owner is successful in an Interior Health bid for beds, “which will make the development more viable,” Garlick said.
According to the housing assessment, Coldstream’s rate of regional growth is expected to double from 2016 to 2026, compared to 2011-2016.
Coldstream also has the highest median home price in the North Okanagan ($501,000) as of June 2020, and as the report from that month notes, “while the median renter incomes are higher than in all other communities ($62,000), only 10 per cent of existing homes in Coldstream are in the purchase price range that would be affordable to the median income renter household.”
Garlick said the district will be addressing affordable housing at a future council meeting.