Kelowna makes a move on affordable housing

Kelowna

Affordable housing and filling in the gap in housing types has long been the focus of Kelowna city council.

On Monday, they approved a new Affordable Housing Land Acquisition Strategy aimed at supporting developers and addressing city needs.

A staff report supporting the new strategy indicates that not for profits have a very difficult time competing with market developers for land.

Mayor Colin Basran was shocked to hear that Kelowna will need more than 2,500 affordable rental units by 2030, costing an estimated 20.5 million dollars per year in land.

“That's crazy to me and it just goes to show the deficit that has been created by the lack of investment by the provincial and federal governments for decades and I really appreciate that we as municipality have done a lot to address that and we cant keep letting this deficit continue to pile up because it ends up with more people on our streets,” said Basran.

City Manager Doug Gilchrist, however, does believe some of the cost will be covered by higher levels of government with advocacy at the municipal level.

“New funding streams are going to be important for us and I think highlighting the work of the Urban Mayor's Caucus and a new fiscal relationship with municipalities, these are the types of things we're talking about. Municipalities can't just take on the responsibility or become a partner without new funding streams and put it solely on the backs of taxation so it does highlight the need to explore alternative revenue streams.”

The city also voted to triple yearly contribution to the Housing Opportunities Reserve Fund over the next two years from $200,000 to $600,000.

“It does seem like a relatively small investment but it does add up and I know as much as we want to throw it back all on the province, I think part of it is just the cost of living has increased, the desirability and the growth has driven real estate prices to where they are now too,” said Councillor Brad Sieben

In 2021, it's estimated that Kelowna has approximately 19,600 rental households, approximately 9,200 of which are in core housing need.

“When the city can play a role I think it's really important. We've chosen not to build affordable housing directly but i think this is the exact slot that we can fit in to effectively to help mitigate some of the challenges going forward,” said Councillor Gail Given.

Council also gave initial approval to three housing developments.

A mixed-use building in the newly created Health Services Transitional Zone opposite Kelowna General Hospital on Royal Ave., a 16-unit project in Rutland and a 3-storey row home on Clement.