Tackling the housing crunch
Wayne Moore - Mar 13, 2018 - Biz Releases

Image: File Photo

The City of Kelowna hopes a multi-layered approach will help with Kelowna’s housing crunch.

With a rental vacancy rate of 0.2 per cent and the increasing cost of ownership, the city is looking at different strategies to increase its housing stock.

One of those, the Healthy Housing Strategy, was on display Monday afternoon.

The strategy, in partnership with Interior Health and UBC Okanagan, is attempting to fill in the housing “gaps” faced in the city today.

Council was reminded of the need for “housing diversity.”

Sustainability co-ordinator Michelle Kam said 62 per cent of ownership housing is single-detached homes and, as the affordability of those homes grows further out of reach, there is a need for different forms of available housing.

The strategy offered up nearly two dozen recommended actions in six categories. Some with a higher level of impact include:

  • Increasing the Housing Agreement requirements from 10 to 25 years to receive city incentives for purpose-built rentals
  • Increasing the supply of affordable housing through inclusionary zoning or density bonusing
  • Formal partnership with BC Housing
  • Create an affordable housing land acquisition strategy that targets land in support of affordable housing
  • Adjust DCC’s to encourage affordable and “missing middle” housing.

It is also being recommended the highest level of incentives for affordable rentals be shifted from for-profit to non-profit entities because that form of housing is the most difficult to deliver.

Long-term planning manager James Moore suggested the city look at a rental strategy where incentives are at their lowest when the vacancy rate is low and profitability is high, and increase the incentives when the vacancy rate is higher.

He said rental developers will be consulted before any change is implemented.

Coun. Gail Given said she believes council needs to move slowly when it comes to changing the incentives offered to developers, especially for rental property development.

“I would get concerned if we reeled back the tax incentive piece, then found out that was the difference…in making a rental building work,” said Given.

Council was also reminded Monday the rental vacancy rate in the city does not include what is know as secondary rentals, such as houses, carriage homes and basement suites.

Moore says there are about 5,000 of those in the Kelowna market.

The recommendations made Monday will be investigated and debated by council before being implemented.

While many may need several years to implement, Moore says with a rapidly-changing housing market, there will be a need to re-evaluate the progress after five years.

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