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Watch for big changes in what you can build on your property in Kelowna

Fourplexes aren't the only kinds of infill housing coming to cities under proposed new provincial regulations.
Fourplexes aren't the only kinds of infill housing coming to cities under proposed new provincial regulations.

The provincial government is in the midst of passing legislation that will allow up to four housing units on most single-family lots in BC.

That comes with visions of bulldozing existing houses and putting up fourplexes. But many more and varied changes will be coming to building regulations.

“Instead of exclusively single-family neighbourhoods where, if you’re aging out of your home, you have no place to go except somewhere else, this will allow you to have some choices about whether you want to add a carriage home, a suite, some income-generating units or, if you do want to redevelop your property, have a new home built for yourself on your property,” James Moore, the city’s infill and housing policy manager, told

READ MORE: Fourplexes to be allowed in just about every single-family lot in Kamloops, Okanagan

Right now, owners of single-family homes in Kelowna can add a carriage house or a secondary suite but not both. That will likely change, as will other rules on what and how things can be built in existing zones.

Just what those changes will be and how uniform they will be throughout the province hasn't been fleshed out yet.

“We don’t really know all the details of how much control the province is going to exert over local governments and how they choose to meet provincial standards so we don’t know how much flexibility we will have at the local level,” Moore said.

“We have to remember, it isn’t legislation yet. It’s just introduced. It has not been given royal assent and we don’t have the details of the guidelines so it’s possible local governments might be able to implement it differently in different jurisdictions. We don’t know how much local flexibility there will be.”

Back in 2017, the City of Kelowna pre-zoned about 700 single-family lots in and around downtown to allow fourplexes to be built on them. It’s planning to expand that zoning to most other areas of the city, along with other changes that will allow for different options of less than four units.

While much of that work has already been done, staff won’t go ahead with it until the details are unveiled by the province.

Moore expects to have more information on those details by mid-December.

“I think, if a developer approaches you, they’re probably going to be looking to maximize what they can get out of a property,” Moore said.

That likely means bulldozing the existing home and building a new multi-family unit.

“But if you do that yourself, I think there’s a lot of opportunity for folks to add incremental density to their properties over time, whether that’s to support their kids or grandkids who are at college here or whether that’s to provide a place they can age into,” he said. “Those are all going to be options.”

Municipalities will have until June to update their bylaws to conform to the new provincial regulations but Moore hopes to have his recommended changes to Kelowna city council by the end of March.

“That’s a major leap forward for our community and our ability to meet our community’s housing needs in the long run,” he said. “It certainly is a part of the puzzle. It’s by no means a silver bullet. There is no such thing in the housing world as a silver bullet but it’s one part of the picture.”

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