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Kelowna pushing for larger family-friendly rental units with changes to grant program

Image Credit: FILE PHOTO
August 24, 2016 - 6:30 PM

HEIGHT CHANGE WILL ALLOW SIX STOREY APARTMENT BUILDINGS

KELOWNA - The city is pretty happy about the over 1,000 rental units now in different stages of development around the city, thanks to various incentive programs.

Acting policy manager James Moore says that success masks a weakness in the number of so-called family friendly rental units — three or four bedrooms — where the vacancy rate in the Central Okanagan for that specific size of unit is almost zero.

Moore says fewer than 50 of those units fall into that category so staff are proposing to nudge the rental housing grant program toward family-friendly units.

Instead of a flat $5,000 grant for each unit, regardless of size, council has agreed to graduate the program starting at $2,000 for one bedroom, rising to $4,000 for two and $8,000 for three-bedroom units and up.

As well, the $320,000 budget for the rental housing grant program will be given a temporary increase boost of $100,000 a year for two years starting in 2017 and subject to budget approval.

Moore says the $320,000 budgeted for 2016 was in such demand, the rental housing grant budget when divided amongst all the units, averaged only $950 each.

“It doesn’t distinguish between the number of rooms and doesn’t accurately reflect the cost of putting a three-bedroom unit online,” Moore says.

While not directly tied to the rental market, Moore says staff are hoping to coax some extra units out of the city's medium density multi-famly zoning by allowing an extra one and a half storeys, from 4.5 to 6.

For years 4.5 storeys was the limit prescribed by the B.C. Building Code but that changed a couple of years ago, Moore says.

“Now you can build an affordable wood frame building up to six storeys,” he adds. “However we are very conscious of the impact of height and there will be height setbacks.”

Moore adds the possible changes to the zoning bylaw are still under development and will come back before council and a full public hearing.

He says planning staff are not aware of any developers with plans for six storey buildings waiting for the change.

“We’ve put it out there that it might be coming but there’s not a line-up of developers waiting to build one,” Moore says. “Sometimes you just have to put it out there and see who comes forward.”

Council agreed to both measures unanimously, advancing them toward an eventual public hearing.

Find more rental housing stories here.


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