Housing strategy will see new housing forms, more protection of rental housing in Kelowna | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Housing strategy will see new housing forms, more protection of rental housing in Kelowna

A house and carriage house under construction in Kelowna's North End, June 25, 2018.
June 29, 2018 - 1:41 PM

KELOWNA - It has a benign sounding name — the Healthy Housing Strategy — but the far-reaching set of 19 actions adopted by Kelowna council this week, will guide the provision of affordable housing in this city for decades and could even prove controversial.

“We’re dealing with 47 per cent of renters and 19 per cent of homeowners who spend more than the recommended 30 per cent of income on housing,” long-range policy planning manager James Moore said. “Every month we seem to see our home prices increasing and rents going up. That’s a pressure that at this time, we don’t see disappearing anytime soon.”

The actions in the strategy range from increasing the rental grant and tax incentive programs to reducing parking requirements while introducing new forms of housing and ownership.

The strategy was based on information gleaned from the Housing Needs Assessment from last fall which showed some of the glaring needs in Kelowna’s housing supply, especially in the ‘missing middle’ a term used to describe housing that falls between the traditional single family house and an apartment.

Moore said it shows the overall need to promote and protect rental housing in Kelowna, improve housing affordability and barriers to affordable housing, while building the right supply and strengthening partnerships with community groups.

“The missing middle is housing options in your community that aren’t necessarily single family homes or apartments that families will find meets their space needs and lifestyle requirements without having to throw affordability out the window,” he said.

Moore says he views all 19 actions recommended in the strategy as important but says those with the largest potential for impact will be the ask made of developers to contribute to affordable housing, likely through a development fee.

“One with the biggest impacts will probably be working with the development community to establish their contribution to affordable housing in our community,” Moore said.

Kelowna has just introduced the new infill zoning allowing subdivision of some single-family lots but Moore says the strategy should see the introduction of even more new styles and tenures of housing.

“You will see a big push in the community to expanding into new forms of housing that aren’t available today like co-ops for example,” Moore said, although he cautions the 19 actions must still receive additional approvals from council as they are introduced.

“This is going to take three to five years to roll out and even longer to fully implement,” Moore said. “The work is just beginning.”

He commended council for its support of the strategy, parts of which will prove unpopular with some stakeholder groups.

“We were very clear in the report for the potential for opposition so think it shows their commitment for housing diversity and ending homelessness,” Moore said. “I think they recognize that affordable housing is not just the responsibility of government, that it has a place in the private sector as well.”

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