The 2040 Official Community Plan (OCP) is how we can best navigate and control the challenges we are faced with: Housing Attainability, Transportation and rising Capital Costs. When we create Complete Communities (where you can live, work and play in one area) we significantly reduce the dependency on the need to travel and mitigate sky rocketing land values in certain areas of the city.
There will need to be a behavioral paradigm shift with our expectations of housing; single-family homes will most likely not be the future for everyone. Currently 65% of home owners reside in single family houses. The Missing Middle best describes a wide variety of housing options like row homes, townhouses, triplexes/fourplexes, micro condos and mixed commercial/residential buildings. These options enable developers to sell a higher number of units, which enables them to keep prices lower then less densely occupied land.
‘Up Not Out’ is a term that is referred to often with densification and urban design. After speaking with many residents, I find that this term can be misleading, as many believe this refers to building more concrete towers. It does not. Building up can be as simple as a 3-6 storey wood frame building in an urban area. Not only does this style of building increase population density it encourages a closer-knit community of inclusion. From a business perspective, the cost is significantly more appealing to developers at approximately $225-$300/square foot versus concrete towers that average $350-$550/square foot. These approximations do not include land values or profit as to best compare apples to apples.
The biggest opportunity for the future lies within the zonings developed within the OCP. By strategically zoning larger amounts of land near Corridors (near transport and community resources) we can encourage Missing Middle developments to flourish. The key will be to zone a high enough amount of land to mitigate land values from skyrocketing. If we choose to zone very few properties, the land values alone will dramatically impact the amount a developer can sell the finished product for.
The Attainable Rental Market is key for many to afford to live, on average no more than 30% of a worker’s annual wage should be spent on housing. In Kelowna, it has been reported that some folks are spending 50%+ on their housing. The fact of the matter is we need diverse housing options to meet the needs of everyone: youth, seniors, young professionals and families to enjoy their lives. Developers and the private sector need to be encouraged with incentives like reduced parking requirements for rental buildings in urban centers with the addition of alternate transportation (ie. car/bike shares, bus passes etc.), property tax incentives for rental buildings and to continue to engineer growth with Development Cost Charges (DCC’s).
We want to respect the rights of property owners who have invested in the city and also of those who require long-term rental options. Short Term Rental (STR) guidelines have not been established in the City of Kelowna. Although the majority of our commercial zoning currently allows STRs, we need to seriously consider how both sides can win with a strategy that fosters tourism and respects long-term tenants. These changes can be positive! Instead of fighting against technology advancements we can find opportunity to help overcome obstacles.
It’s time to get creative and work together with understanding to create accessibility and quality of life for everyone. We all would like a silver bullet solution to the challenges we are faced with but the fact is it will take many small actions to inch forward in the right direction.