Would you like to subscribe to our newsletters?

City of Kelowna has pleasant task of figuring out what to do with $31.5 million in free money

Kelowna Mayor Tom Dyas
Kelowna Mayor Tom Dyas
Image Credit: Submitted/City of Kelowna

Most people who win the lottery need a little time to figure out how to spend all that money.

The City of Kelowna is now in a similar position after getting $31.5 million handed to it out of the federal Housing Accelerator Fund earlier this week.

“We are very, very grateful for what we received,” Mayor Tom Dyas told “We’re just ecstatic to receive what we received.”

Of course, this being federal money aimed at accelerating the pace of new home construction, it’s not quite as wide open a choice of what to do with the money as a lottery winner has since there are strings attached and a three-year time limit.

But the fact that Kelowna is already doing many of the right things seems to have been instrumental in it becoming the first city in BC and only the sixth in Canada to receive a grant from the $4 billion fund.

“The Housing Accelerator Fund has been given to communities that have been showing that innovation, leadership and trying to reduce barriers as much as possible in order to allow more housing to be built in their communities so people have homes,” Dyas said.

READ MORE: Kelowna getting $31.5M from feds to build housing faster

He outlined a number of housing initiatives the city is pushing in an effort to get more housing built faster.

Some of those are already being done, as seems to have been recognized by the federal government.

One is using technology to speed up the approval process. Kelowna is developing ChatGPT artificial intelligence technology to streamline the development application and building permit process. Once up and running, that technology will be available to cities across the country.

READ MORE: Kelowna rapidly becoming national leader in local gov't tech

It is also well along in expanding the areas of the city that will be pre-zoned to allow for fourplexes on more single-family lots and larger buildings along transit routes.

This new money can be used for other initiatives, like partnering with private sector, not-for-profits or BC Housing to build more housing.

The City of Kelowna is already doing part of that by using some city-owned land for affordable housing.

Infrastructure improvements can now be added to those efforts.

That could mean upgrading things like water and sewer lines in certain areas of the city so they can be developed or the existing density increased.

Or, it might be a matter of improving sidewalks, bike lanes, bridges, roads or even fire halls.

Dyas was not able to offer specific examples of what that money could be used for since details have yet to be worked out.

For example, city staff have been working for the past few months to determine what areas of the city are suited for fourplex infill, which can be affected by lot sizes and services.

In theory, the new money could be used to upgrade sewer lines or add sidewalks and trees in those areas.

Wherever the money is spent, the goal is to stretch it out as far as possible to get the maximum benefit, Dyas said.

The target set by the federal government is for 950 additional new units to be built in the next three years.

Kelowna’s $31.5 million works out to almost $218 per Kelowna resident, based on the 2021 census.

Proportionately, that’s better than the other five grants (to four cities in Ontario and Halifax) where funding averaged $174 per person.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

We welcome your comments and opinions on our stories but play nice. We won't censor or delete comments unless they contain off-topic statements or links, unnecessary vulgarity, false facts, spam or obviously fake profiles. If you have any concerns about what you see in comments, email the editor in the link above. SUBSCRIBE to our awesome newsletter here.