Rental apartment building in downtown Kelowna a first in several decades

Pictured is an artist's rendition of a proposed six-storey, 58-unit purpose-built rental apartment building on Clement Avenue in downtown Kelowna.

KELOWNA - A six-storey rental apartment building planned for Clement Avenue — one of the first rental apartments to be built downtown in decades — has received Kelowna council’s initial blessing.

If it is built, the 58-unit purpose-built rental building will replace seven single family houses along Clement and will be one of the first rental apartment buildings built north of Bernard Avenue in many years. It will include one- two- and three- bedroom units as well as some four-bedroom townhouses.

Planner Emily Williamson in a report to council described the Clement Avenue corridor as an area in transition with the recent opening of the new RCMP detachment on Clement at Richter Street. Application has also been made for a mixed-use commercial project on Richter, south of Clement.

As a purpose-built rental apartment, owners Greenpoint Landscaping Inc. and Anagram Properties Inc. will receive an $116,000 grant from the city in offset of the estimated $739,000 development cost charges the project will incur.

A second rental apartment project planned for Fuller Avenue has also been approved for an offset of $76,000 against development cost charges of $970,000. The 68-unit project has yet to proceed.

Council on Monday, Feb. 26, gave first reading of the official community plan amendment and rezoning application necessary for the Clement Avenue project to go ahead.

One caveat is height. The rezoning approval comes with a restrictive covenant that limits the building’s height to six storeys where the new zoning would allow up to 16 storeys.

The rezoning application must now go to a public hearing before a final vote.

The offset grants are provided from $420,000 the city set aside for both 2017 and 2018 in its ongoing efforts to encourage purpose-built rental housing.

Kelowna has one of the lowest rental vacancy rates in the country, estimated by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation at just 0.2 per cent in the forth quarter of 2017.

Since 2012, council has set a target of permitting 300 rental units a year, a level it has met only once, in 2016. While there has been rising interest in rental housing grants, it was only 2015 when the city finally saw a developer first take them up on the offer.

Since then, the city has permitted over 2,000 rental units. CMHC estimates almost 1,400 units began construction in 2017. City staff estimate 863 of the 1,070 units that received grants last year are already under construction.

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