THE KAMLOOPS REAL ESTATE MARKET is hot. Not a day goes by that I don’t I read about another house selling for $50,000 or more over asking. Or a homeowner receiving 10 or more offers on their house. The demand for housing in Kamloops is outstripping the supply.
There is a shortage of housing lots in Kamloops and the developer is willing to invest time and money to build the infrastructure and services required for building 45 new homes.
It is a sign of the confidence in the future of Kamloops that a developer wants to sink millions of dollars into the project.
But there is a cost to continually growing Kamloops city by sprawling ever outward, and it’s a cost we all pay.
Every house further from the centre of the city is more traffic congestion as people have to drive farther and farther to get anywhere.
Every extra road that is built is a road to maintain, plow, and repave in the future.
Every house further out at the edge of the city means the garbage trucks, and city buses have further to drive to service the homes. Water has to be pumped further, as does waste water.
Every lot built on bare land is land that was once used for farming or wildlife, both of which have value too.
Sometimes it is a necessity to create housing from bare land. But there are other options. The most obvious one is subdividing existing lots.
Last year in Kamloops, 42 fee simple lots were created. That means, at most, there were an additional 42 lots for single family homes (or duplexes) to be built on.
Of the 42 fee simple lots, 24 were greenfield sites, or bare land such as what is proposed in Juniper West. Another 18 fee simple lots were infill, of which two lots were split off an existing parcel with a house.
Any way you look at it, 42 new building lots for single-family residential lots for a city the size of Kamloops is an extremely small number. It’s no wonder that there are bidding wars for houses. There is an extremely short supply of new building lots. Demand is outstripping supply.
But what’s the worse is that only 18 lots were created from infill. Kamloops has about 20,000 single family lots. That only 18 lots were subdivided means that it’s not an easy thing to do and there’s not much incentive to do it.
Rather than penalizing people who want to subdivide existing lots with fees, charges, and rezoning requirements, the City should be incentivizing subdividing large lots within the existing footprint of Kamloops.
More lots from subdividing existing parcels would help people looking to buy, builders needing lots to build on, and all of the taxpayers who fund city services.
The City of Kamloops should be paying people to subdivide their lots. In the long run, having more houses closer to the city would be a huge savings for us all. Lower costs for providing transit, garbage and utilities. Less roads to pave and less traffic congestion. More space for wildlife and preservation of farmland.
We’re growing and we need ways to build. But we need ways to make it so people can afford to live here too. Let’s hope City of Kamloops finds ways to help create more than 18 lots from subdivisions next year.
Nancy Bepple is a former City councillor of Kamloops with a strong interest in community building projects.