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CHARBONNEAU – B.C. municipalities: get out of the way of low cost housing

(Image: Mel Rothenburger)

KAMLOOPS IS AN EXCEPTION but too many B.C. municipalities are not approving enough housing for population growth.

City councils find all kinds of reasons to stall affordable housing. Too many housing development proposals become stalled at the permit approval stage as local councils deliberate over building heights, parking issues and the character of neighbourhoods.

This is happening as homeless encampments pop up across the province. Rental units are difficult to find, house prices have escalated and thousands of people are arriving in B.C. looking for places to live.

Cities can, and must, have the right to say where housing needs to go, decide where heritage areas exist and where they want growth. “But they shouldn’t be allowed to decide whether or not the housing goes ahead, which is currently where we are,” says David Eby, former Housing Minister and Attorney-General.

“The bottom line is that municipalities are not approving enough housing for our population growth,” said Eby. “I think it’s quite possible that we’re going to need to be more prescriptive. One thing is clear is that the status quo is not acceptable.”

David Eby resigned his posts in July to run for the New Democratic Party leadership. He promises sweeping changes to provincial housing policy, including measures to increase housing density in communities zoned for single family homes.

Other jurisdictions have implemented similar policies to increase housing supply, including California, Oregon, Washington State and New Zealand, where state-level governments recently set minimum targets.

A new California bill would apply to single-family neighborhoods where existing parcels could be split in half. The state has been criticized by officials in some cities as an overreach on decisions that should be left to local communities.

Cities are where the rubber meets the road. Old myths persist. Vocal citizens continue to promote the idea that low-income citizens must not have proper homes because they are lazy, and/or addicted. They are a problem on the street, yet homes are not the answer according to this reasoning.

Local politicians are pushed and pulled in two directions. The growing homeless problem is pushing the need for affordable housing. Politicians are being pulled by the fear that the homeless present a safety concern. If affordable homes are built in low-density suburbs, communities will not be safe.

Craig Hodge, a member of the Union of B.C. Municipalities executive and a city councillor in Coquitlam, said the union has been working with the province on housing issues, but Mr. Eby’s comments are a concern.

“My main concern about some of the things the minister is talking about,” said  Hodge, “is making sure that we maintain local autonomy and the decision making process in our communities.”

Autonomy is only a concern when municipalities balk at provincial proposals to increase affordable housing.

Eby’s proposal was discussed at a Kamloops’ mayoralty form on Tuesday at TRU. Some candidates echoed concern about autonomy but others expressed a need for affordable housing. Compliance is only a concern when a vocal few in the community voice unreasonable objections to housing in their neighbourhoods.

Kamloops City council has been in agreement with affordable projects proposed by BC Housing.

Most housing built in agreement with the province is notable for the lack of attention they receive. Places like Kikékyelc in Brock for Indigenous youth aging out of foster care. Heard of it?

Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops and a retired newspaper editor. He is a regular contributor to CFJC Today, publishes the ArmchairMayor.ca opinion website, and is a director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board. He can be reached at mrothenburger@armchairmayor.ca.

About Mel Rothenburger (9224 Articles)
ArmchairMayor.ca is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At ArmchairMayor.ca he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

1 Comment on CHARBONNEAU – B.C. municipalities: get out of the way of low cost housing

  1. I have to agree with this.
    I find it hilarious that after other BC municipalities obfuscate and say no to affordable … or even emergency housing, commenters in Kamloops praise that as apparently, a good thing.

    They honestly have no idea what they are talking about.

    The facts are simple. People (and no … not just homeless) are moving to BC in drives. Reasonable and affordable housing is not just needed but essential.

    Municipalities have to shut up and get out of the way, and stop turning every housing project into a social/political issue.

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