Berry: Micro suites offer micro solutions in Central Okanagan

It’s time we rethink development in Kelowna and Lake Country

Micro suites may be a viable solution for housing Japan’s 128 million people, it certainly isn’t working in the Central Okanagan.

Touted as being the most affordable housing alternative when compared to an average Kelowna home, which ranges around $700,000 give or take, the market will go where the market goes, regardless of councillors decisions.

While it may be enticing for councillors to approve of micro developments, like the Cambridge House on Leon Avenue, as the Okanagan becomes increasingly unaffordable for home buyers who want to step into the market, it doesn’t offer a solution.

Originally marketed below $100,000 and sold on average for $150,000, in Kelowna’s hot housing market the suites are now listed for sale up to $220,000, $70,000 more than the price they were originally sold at two years ago.

READ MORE: Small homes, small benefits: Speculators eye up Kelowna’s micro suite pool

Some of this can be attributed to flipping, when an owner buys, then sells a unit before the complex is even complete, but most of the sales can be seen through real estate listings, which the province aims to address, but also can’t be completely attributed to the rise of the micro suites’ price.

According to real estate agent Andrew Smith, investors are riding out the market, relisting and repricing their properties to make the most of their purchase, a common occurrence that you’ll see anywhere in Canada.

While they may be cheaper for developers to build, they’re not cheaper for the city. Developers don’t pay Development Cost Charges when building micro suites, and the cost then falls on the taxpayers for parks, roads and other amenities. Kelowna Coun. Luke Stack voiced this concern years ago when they were first proposed.

They’re also not proving to be any more affordable as rental units. According to PadMapper, the average price for a one bedroom is listed as $1,280. At Cambridge House, renters are paying around $1,200 to $1,300 for the suites.

READ MORE: Rent isn’t cheaper in a Kelowna micro suite

The market isn’t also something the city can control. So what’s a solution?

A new affordable housing project in Lake Country would provide seniors and young families with housing. Affordable housing projects allow for residents to actually save money, which they could one day invest in property, or at the very least, have a comfortable place to call home.

There’s no question that the Central Okanagan is growing. Lake Country, at one point, was listed as the fastest growing municipality in B.C. But with that title comes the responsibility of councillors to encourage development that improves the lives of citizens.

We need to utilize what space we have, like building apartments, townhomes and condos, but also must keep in mind the market, and our surrounding landscape.

Lake Country Coun. Penny Gambell is making it her mission for this term to take a good look at all the developments in Lake Country, and work towards a tree retention bylaw that would keep green space for not only humans, but animals as well.

Maybe Kelowna should do the same.

@carliberry_
carli.berry@kelownacapnews.com

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