Campbell River City Hall. Campbell River Mirror photo

COUNCIL: Mayoral candidates address issue of housing shortage

Housing crunch impacting community significantly

l Larry Samson…

Housing does not fall under one level of government, each level of government has a role to play. Canada Mortgage and Housing Association and BC Housing are two such examples. Municipalities are mostly responsible for deciding where federal and provincial funding goes — and how neighbourhoods are zoned for different types of housing.

A number of options the city can look at or adopt, to address affordability and shortage are;

– Zoning to allow R1a Secondary Suites and Accessory Dwelling Units.

– Inclusionary zoning which would require developers to create some type of non-market housing as a condition for new large scale development sites.

– Introduce tax incentives for developers who offer low cost rental construction.

– Zoning and tax incentives to allow development of modular or mobile units parks.

– There are a variety of municipal costs and fees associated with housing developments that can be waived, including development cost charges, community amenity charges, utility fees and building permit fees. Waiver of these fees can reduce overall building costs.

– Lower limit lot size, some cities have dropped their lot size to as low as 1500 square feet

– Partner with BC Housing for low income seniors and families

– Work with developers to provide a percentage of subsidized rental units

– We can revitalize neighbourhoods to make them more appealing to buyers.

– Housing Co-ops; They have existed in Canada for decades and represent something of a middle ground between renting and owning — security of tenure without the often prohibitive cost of a down payment. Local governments can waive or reduce property taxes for co-op and non-profit housing providers in order to incentivize construction of new housing, or re-development of existing housing.

– We can approve more development of raw land to put more lots on the market to address lot shortages. Shortage of lots drive the prices up; and multi residential properties rise in proportion to the cost of residential lots.

Working together, we can make a difference but it will take all levels of government as well as the private sector to make a difference.

l Saron Gebresellassi…

Open up development to more than the wealthy few. I will suggest an alternative housing strategy that enables you to build your own small home through your own labor and with the assistance of experts and qualified volunteer labor. This is doable with small-scale projects like high-quality cabins, small cottages, and tiny homes. Institutional lenders have the ability to reduce the cost of financing, reduce down payments, and interest rates on mortgages for community housing projects. Disincentivize foreign nationals from purchasing local properties through taxation.

l Kermit Dahl…

Well, we need to allow growth. The city has been growing at 1.3 to 1.6% per year. And we’ve had a .4 to .7 or .8 vacancy rate. So obviously, we’re not developing enough housing to meet the demand or we would have a 2% vacancy rate if we were doing the job efficiently. So we need to allow development to happen. We have over 700 Lots waiting for development, whether it’s single family, multifamily, high density. Those are the issues I think. If we don’t allow Campbell River to grow then we’re going to continue to have this problem that we have where rents are out of reach for most people. I was just visiting with my daughter yesterday and we were talking about the rents because she lives down-Island. And at Easter, I was trying to convince her to move home and she won’t. It’s way too expensive to live here. And it’s expensive because we don’t have a vacancy rate. There’s no vacancy here. So you can charge what the market will take.

And then to get the lower income housing, I think the city can work with First Nations and BC Housing to develop a low market rental. Let’s face it, they say you shouldn’t spend more than 30% of your your salary on housing. And you look at apartments here that are $1,700, $1,800 – do the math and figure out what would you need to be making to make an $1,800 apartment fit your budget. It’s almost unattainable for anyone. I think the the median income for Campbell River is $65,000. So for an average income earner anything over $1,600 a month is going to be more than 30%.

l Charlie Cornfield…

Real estate and development is market driven. They will build whatever the market demands and they will charge whatever the market will bear. It is supply and demand.

According to the housing needs assessment by the city we needed a minimum of 1,000 new housing units over the five years from 2017 to 2021. There were 1,715 housing starts over that same period. 507 in 2021 alone. It should have been enough according to our estimates although we were low in the missing middle.

So how do we get more housing at the right mix?

– Speed up the development application process. Time is money to developers. The review is slated for Mondays council meeting.

– There is only one person who pays and that is the consumer. We must be careful of what we want the developers to pay for. They have to apply that cost to the lots increasing the cost of housing.

– We need to reconsider the urban containment boundary, and rural development standards.

– Consider more manufactured homes and new green field small lot developments.

– Secondary suites in new developments. Eagle heights is an example where secondary suites are allowed in every dwelling.

– In established neighbourhoods, anyone can apply to construct a secondary suite in any R1 zone. This rezoning triggers a public hearing and we must consider the comments of the neighbourhood.

– Densification in the right location is a good idea. In new developments it can be incorporated into the plan and the consumer is aware of what is coming. The same is not true in existing neighbourhoods. Changing the neighbourhood and adversely impacting their investment and life results in conflict.

– We also must ensure that the existing infrastructure of water, sewer, stormwater and roads has the capacity necessary to accommodate increased density.

There are a number of other opportunities to provide attainable housing that are worthy of discussion and consideration such as:

– We have been and continue to be involved with BC Housing to provide non-market (rent geared to income, shelter rates, or bridge) housing units. Since 2017 they have acquired or built 178 units and have 55 more under construction.

– Co-op housing or subsidized housing

– We need to “think out of the box.”

– It is currently not in the city’s mandate to build housing or develop housing projects, however, it is time to consider this approach

– The Comox model where a percentage of new rentals and condos are provided to the town for affordable housing.

– The Duncan mini homes model.

– Collaborating and partnering with the development community and others.

l Michael Calhoun…

The housing problem is a major issue. Some solutions are: reduce the red tape for developers, relax some zoning with proper consultation with all involved. 2) Commercial properties for residential a mix of rental strata as the great example of Tin town in the Comox Valley. This will strengthen the areas like Campbellton which was hit hard with the downturn in resource industries being more people living there to make it alive. New trailer park development. RV sites. Relocation of existing building by house movers. Allocation of new properties. Even expanding of existing borders to free up more affordable lots. Forty years of residential, commercial and light industrial projects make me the candidate best suited for this challenge.

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