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Governments can do more to make housing affordable, says Kelowna developer

Scott Butler, President Highstreet Ventures.
January 30, 2020 - 1:11 PM

While the provincial government’s role in providing affordable housing in the Central Okanagan was being praised by politicians, the man who actually builds some of those apartments took a shot at governments at all levels.

Scott Butler, president of Highstreet Ventures, was one of the speakers at the first of three events today, Jan. 30, where Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Selina Robinson highlighted three projects supported by the province with 247 housing units.

“One of the major costs in building affordable housing is the various levels of taxes,” Butler said. “There are three levels of government that influence that and, oddly, we tax affordable housing more than we do luxury housing.”

Butler built 240 rental units in West Kelowna in a three-building complex called Carrington Ridge. Those were built to a Green Gold environmental standard. His new project in that area, called Carrington View, will have 186 rental units built to the highest level of the new B.C. Step Code, four years before it will be required for all new apartments.

Butler’s goal is to own and operate 1,000 apartments by 2024 that have net zero energy consumption and he wants to show the industry that those housing units can be reasonably priced.

The province assisted with the financing for Carrington View but, Butler explained to prior to the news conference, that doesn’t have much impact on the bottom line.

Carrington View will be marketed to people earning $50,000 to $100,000 per year, something Butler refers to as the “affordable end of the spectrum.” There are no government subsidies for the rents but, by making them so energy efficient, renters will save on their utility bills.

Butler was speaking at a news conference that was held next to a new 40-unit apartment complex being built for Now Canada. It will provide housing for low to middle income individuals and families with rents ranging from $375 for a studio apartment to about $1,835 for a three-bedroom unit. It includes operating funding for Now Canada.

The contingent of speakers was scheduled to move to Butler’s project site on Majoros Road in West Kelowna at noon then to an already built 21-unit townhome project near Dr. Knox Middle School in Glenmore.

The townhome project in Glenmore is operated by the Society of Hope. Executive director Luke Stack explained that his project is geared toward working families who pay 30 per cent of their income as rent. The townhomes rent from $900 a month for a two-bedroom unit and $1,100 for three bedrooms.

The average rental rate for one bedroom apartments in Kelowna is about $1,300 per month.

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