BEPPLE – We need housing but B.C. govt’s plan to impose zoning is too risky
WE NEED MORE HOUSING in Kamloops. There is no dispute about that. According to Statistics Canada, from 2016 to 2021 Kamloops’ population grew by 10%, making it the fifth fastest growing metropolitan area in Canada.
Kamloops is growing so more housing is needed. At first blush, the recently announced provincial government’s Housing for People plan is good news not just for Kamloops but for municipalities across the province.
Among other things, the provincial government is promising forgivable loans for homeowners. They are promising building more affordable homes for renters, Indigenous people, women and children leaving violence, and on-campus housing. They are launching BC Builds to use public lands to create affordable housing.
The provincial government is committing $4 billion over three years to get more housing in B.C..
See also: EDITORIAL – NDP government’s housing mandate threatens civic autonomy
All those things are good things. But one part of the plan has me concerned.
The Province promises more town homes, duplexes and triplexes through “zoning changes”. The provincial government is saying that they will start to define land use and zoning, something that is currently under control of local governments like the City of Kamloops.
Up until now, if zoning for a parcel of land is proposed to be changed, say from single family residential to multi family, a city council would hold a rezoning hearing.
At the rezoning hearing, the proponent for the change can speak, as can anyone else for or against the change. Typically it is the landowner requesting a rezoning, but the City can also propose a land use change.
Rezoning hearings let communities have input into land use. Sometimes NIMBYism takes over, and people oppose much needed housing. The provincial government is trying to make it easier to build more housing in traditional low-density neighborhoods by removing the rezoning step and imposing land use. Under Housing for People, the province could impose higher density zoning.
The problem is, there are parts of Kamloops that do not have the capacity to handle extra housing. For example, Barnhartvale does not have sufficient water to allow additional density.
The Union of British Columbia Municipalities, the group representing 200 local governments across B.C., met with the provincial government and disclosed that the province plans to assign housing targets to 16 to 20 municipalities per year. The provincial government is poised to overstep local governments’ jurisdiction on local land use and impose higher density zoning.
Kamloops is growing, but the City of Kamloops and local builders have already done work to ensure housing can be built.
For example, from 2017 to 2022, the City of Kamloops has grown in population by 8,883 and during the same period has issued building permits for 4,501 units capable of housing 10,352 residents based upon an average household size of 2.3. During this period, 584 social housing units have been constructed.
Since 2109, the City allowed secondary suites and garden suites on all urban lands except in cul-de-sacs. Since 2023, 1093 parcels allow duplexes. Also since 2023, minimum lot sizes allow more housing options.
Building housing is a priority of the CIty of Kamloops. But having zoning imposed by the provincial government has too many risks, starting with having housing built that is not supported by infrastructure such as sufficient water, sewer, roads or transit.
That’s why I’ve brought forward a notice of motion asking City Council to send a letter stating the City wishes to retain jurisdiction over land use. The City’s house is in order: we don’t need the province taking over what we do.
Nancy Bepple is a Kamloops City councillor with a strong interest in community building projects.
There would be no proposals for affordable housing in Barnhartvale and the like. Affordable housing is to be built near shopping, entertainment and easy to get around areas. There are so many other areas, totally under municipal government jurisdictions, that you could lend a hand in fixing Nancy.