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Kelowna plans to hand over city land in exchange for affordable housing

Image Credit: PEXELS

Kelowna city council has plans to lease city-owned land to developers at minimal cost in exchange for more affordable housing. But low income renters will not be benefiting. 

Under the proposed Middle Income Housing Partnership, the city will form partnerships with non-profit and private-sector housing providers.

The Kelowna Housing Need Assessment identified a shortage of subsidized rental housing between 2021 and 2023. The rate of subsidized home building is currently less 10% of what is needed.

In recent years, 45 below-market-rate homes have been built per year, compared to the estimated 450 to 640 homes that are needed.

Under the new partnership plan, 20% of the houses built could be offered at a minimum of 20% below market value.

While this may benefit the middle class, it may do very little for those surviving on low incomes. 

“The model will not result in deeply affordable housing targeting households with low or very low incomes. An ongoing partnership with BC Housing through the Community Housing Fund (CHF) will still be necessary to meet this vital need,” reads a city staff report going to a council meeting on Monday, Feb. 5.

As part of the partnership, non-profit and private developers would enter into a long-term lease (between 60 and 99 years) of city owned land and source financing from the senior government to develop housing.

The partners would then build and operate the housing for the duration the lease. However, they must meet an agreement with the city for a portion of the units to be offered at below-market rates.

Usually, multiple levels of government need to work in tandem and the city must work in partnership with BC Housing to fund construction of affordable homes and subsidize operational costs.

However, by providing land at little to no cost, the city believes that is it using local government's most impactful tool.

It is anticipated that the first five years of the program will be funded through existing lands assets, the Housing Opportunities Reserve fund and grants.

— This story was updated at 4.30 p.m. on Monday Feb. 5, 2024, to change the word sell to lease. 

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