EDITORIAL – NDP government’s housing mandate threatens civic autonomy

(Image: File photo)

An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.

THERE’S SOMETHING TROUBLING about the NDP government’s latest plan to increase housing in the province. Actually, there’s a lot that’s troubling about it.

Legislation later this year will give the Province authority to force municipalities to allow up to four units on single-family detached lots, making local zoning little more than a suggestion.

It certainly has the potential to increase the number of available units but it could also throw local planning into chaos.

Kamloops councillors and other municipal reps returned from a two-day UBCM housing forum at the Coast last week no doubt unsure what to think.

If the Province is going to start calling all the shots on where and how municipalities can build, how can cities possibly carry out effective planning? How are local taxpayers supposed to pay for all the extra infrastructure that will be needed to service this major increase in density?

What happens to community plans that are designed to sort out the best places to put certain types of development? Are cities expected to become conglomerates of the ticky tacky boxes made famous in the old Pete Seeger song?

That song was a condemnation of tract-style housing and middle-class conformity that had become popular during the 1960s.

Kamloops has gone through its share of experiences with high density housing, from the so-called Berlin Wall apartment blocks to condos and town houses. Some have been positive, some not so much, but the city has developed into a pretty good balance of housing types.

B.C. municipalities are a level of government just as federal and provincial governments are. The B.C. government defines them of “autonomous, responsible and accountable government directed by democratically elected councils.”

Local democratically elected councils are supposed to be left to control their own zoning according to their vision for their communities. The NDP’s approach may or may not hold some answers to the housing shortage, but the result could be communities full of sameness.

I’m Mel Rothenburger, the Armchair Mayor.

Mel Rothenburger is a regular contributor to CFJC Today, publishes the opinion website, and is a recipient of the Jack Webster Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award. He has served as mayor of Kamloops, school board chair and TNRD director, and is a retired newspaper editor. He can be reached at

About Mel Rothenburger (9634 Articles) 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 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.

5 Comments on EDITORIAL – NDP government’s housing mandate threatens civic autonomy

  1. Cities and neighborhoods are indeed elements which should be subject to evolvement and change. There will always be push against change. The work needed is to integrate said changes in relative social and architectural harmony. We are arguably not particularly innovative around here. But now, with the proposed legislative changes coming soon, we could locally show repressed urban planning talent?

  2. Does that wipe out all R1 zoning I wonder. It sounds like anyone anywhere can now convert their homes to accommodate secondary suites. You work your butt off to have a nice home to suddenly have cars parked all over, congested streets and a peaceful neighborhood gone. Your taxes for sure are going up to pay for all the needed water and sewer that will be needed. It seems life as we know it in Canada is going to be vastly different from now on. I suppose it can be considered selfish to wish the Prime Minister would not invite the masses to come to Canada without the way to house them, until this becomes necessary.

  3. Ken McClelland // April 10, 2023 at 9:08 AM // Reply

    Housing policy as viewed through the big-government-is-better-government-Victoria/Vancouver lens. In my experience, many people leave those places to come here both for lower housing costs and higher quality of life i.e a yard for their kids to play in, safe neighborhoods as opposed to one size fits all ghettos, etc. To impose that SW corner of the province sameness on the rest of the province with nothing more than a “we know better than you” pat on the head is pretty high-handed and is unlikely to go well, nor should it. Urban planning may not be perfect here, however we enjoy a pretty good, perhaps even enviable, quality of life, and don’t need the interference of out-of-touch urban politicians dictating planning policy.

  4. John Noakes // April 10, 2023 at 7:17 AM // Reply

    Much to consider.
    Maybe more tenant packages for insurance will be sold.
    Will the municipality collect 4X the amount for water, sewer and garbage/recycling for each new 4-plex that is built?
    Leave our parks and green spaces alone; don’t even consider sacrificing them to “infill”.

    • John Noakes // April 10, 2023 at 8:20 AM // Reply

      I’m also wondering how the CRA views “rental suites” as far as income is concerned? That’s outside the scope of municipal politics but more of a point of interest for me and others perhaps.

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