Four-plexes set to replace housing in Kelowna, Kamloops
Kamloops residents will soon be joining their Kelowna counterparts in seeing massive four-plexes popping up without notice right next door.
The practice has been going on in Kelowna since 2017 when the city created the RU7 zone that applied to 700-800 single-family lots from downtown to South Pandosy.
It allows builders to tear down existing single-family houses, plow up lawns and gardens and build two-storey buildings with up to four units in each – all without having to tell their neighbours what they’re up to.
Now Kelowna and the City of Kamloops are poised to push for a major expansion and initiation of the practice early next year.
“We’re looking at infill opportunities all over the city and re-evaluating what we consider is appropriate density,” Rod Martin, planning and development manager for the City of Kamloops, told iNFOnews.ca. “Everyone is looking at how we can accommodate infill without too much impact on neighbourhoods.”
Looking at some of the existing new four-plexes in Kelowna – more than 165 have been approved over the past five years – may belie the idea of "minimal impact."
There are some side streets where there are three or four of the two-storey structures lined up side by side in the midst of a neighbourhood of modest-sized single-family houses.
Not that anyone seems to have a problem with that.
“We get very few complaints in RU7 areas about that infill,” Ryan Smith, Kelowna’s community development planning manager, told iNFOnews.ca. “What worked well, I think, is that everybody got the ability to do the same thing. You couldn’t say: ‘Oh, my neighbour is getting a special zoning,’ because you have that zoning too.”
The other factor that may have kept neighbours quiet is what the new zone did to the price of their homes when it was created.
“There was a definite lift in value right when that happened,” Joe Ungaro, a real estate agent with Ungaro Albrecht Courtney and Associates/Royal LePage, told iNFOnews.ca. “Homes that were $300,000 to $350,000 went to $600,000 overnight.”
The City of Kelowna is looking into where they can expand that zone, which has been relabelled the MF1 zone.
Builders have called for it to apply to all single-family lots in the city but Smith doesn’t see that happening, at least not at this time.
“We’re going to take a look through our infill process about where does it make the most sense if we’re going to open it up through a streamlined process,” he said.
In Kamloops, the North Shore Neighbourhood Plan is expected to be adopted before the Oct. 15 municipal election, Martin said. After that, staff will look at a similar zone to Kelowna's for that area but may also include areas on the South Shore near downtown.
That’s expected to happen early next year.
The “streamlined process” that Smith mentioned is the fact that, once the zone is expanded to new areas, the builders don’t have to go through the long and costly rezoning process for each lot since they will already have the zoning.
All they’ll need to do is take out a development permit, which doesn’t require them to even mention it to the next-door neighbours.
That means single-family homeowners in both cities – and likely other communities in the region soon enough – will have to speak up when the changes are proposed early next year and opened to public input or live with the consequences for years to come.
Of course, given how the selling prices of affected Kelowna properties doubled overnight, property owners may all be happy with the windfall.
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