KELOWNA - How do you provide infill housing to existing neighbourhoods which is sensitive to the concerns of neighbours yet still satisfies the ultimate goal of increasing density and reducing urban sprawl?
The first thing you do is challenge the experts, the builders and developers who do it for a living. That was the aim of the infill challenge, a competition of sorts put on by the city to see who could come up with the best overall design concept.
Then you develop a short list from the 10 submissions and offer the winning design $5,000 as well as front-of-the-line development approval for both winner and runner-up.
The winning designs by Inhabit Residential and Worman Homes both provided four units on a standard 37-metre by 15-metre lot, but both designs are quite different.
Competition rules demanded the designs be a new form of infill housing not currently allowed under Kelowna’s zoning bylaws, provide adequate off-street parking and meet the B.C. Building Code.
Judges evaluated the designs based on respect for context with the surrounding neighbourhood, their relationship to the street, provision of high-quality shared and open spaces and limited bulk.
Inhabit’s design included units in four separate buildings, essentially narrow three-bedroom houses with small carriage houses in the rear.
Worman’s design put four units in one building, giving all units street access and private decks, while maintaining the appearance of a slightly larger single family home.
The challenge areas are two residential zones, one north of Highway 97 bound by Richter Street and Gordon Drive and the other south of the highway, primarily between Ethel and Richter Street.
Councillors had nothing much but praise for the design competition and the winners it produced, happily endorsing the recommended winners.
“I think this is a very creative approach to housing in our community,” Coun. Luke Stack said. “I say, rock and roll, let’s go.”
Policy and planning manager James Moore told councillors the next step is for staff to design a special development zone covering the competition areas.
While the challenge winners will see their development applications put on the fast-track, Moore said infill housing is inherently controversial and the normal development application rules still apply until such special zones become law.
“We know change is hard and some controversy will be part of the process,” Moore said.
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