In an ongoing series leading up to the Feb. 27 municipal by-election, the Mirror has been asking the candidates a series of questions about why they want to be on Campbell River City Council, what perspectives they will bring to the position and what they hope to accomplish should they win the open seat.
For question No. 5, we asked: What, specifically, should the city be doing to increase housing availability and affordability in the community?
Their responses are as follows, in alphabetical order, exactly as they were submitted. Stephen Jewell did not respond by press deadline.
As I have said many times before, let’s keep building momentum from our strengths. Some positive housing options have recently emerged that address our social challenges– the supportive housing complex on Dogwood, temporary bridge housing at the Rose Bowl, Linda’s Place – these are solid beginnings and will need evaluation to identify the gaps. But overall we need coordinated efforts across a wide range of options. These include an emphasis on diversification, intensification, mixed income housing to address affordability, secondary suites, tiny homes and continued efforts at supportive housing. This is all in addition to encouraging the ongoing addition of new rental apartments, condominiums and where possible single family homes.
We need to have everyone at the table. Density planning is challenged by our social pressures downtown. We need the voices of developers, alongside front-line security and social service workers. We need business owners present. Combined we can work together to encourage investment in density.
All areas of Campbell River need to be included. Together we can explore options. There are no quick fixes. Solutions take time. An innovative, inclusive, compassionate and forward-thinking community awaits us all if we work together.
The City of Campbell River, in my opinion, needs to re-examine our Official Community Plan, Zoning Bylaw and any other planning policy document to remove any onerous requirements placed on people and developers to develop properties and to also increase the density allowed. When it comes to developing properties, the City needs to focus on in filling first and creating secondary suites where possible and also dealing with the backlog of developments waiting for approval.
As many other communities have done, when a large development is proposed, a certain percentage such as twenty percent (20%) of the properties developed are required to be affordable housing. The percentage amount will be dependent on the size of the project. If a development of a six-unit is approved then one of the units would be affordable housing. If Council allows for apartment blocks and condominium buildings to exceed six (6) stories, then the percentage of affordable housing units may be able to be increased to twenty-five percent (25%). Working together with the community and the developers we can make something work for the betterment of all citizens by providing housing for all people.
There is an immediate need for raised Urban Density levels in pocket neighbourhoods such as our Downtown Core. Campbell River still has hundreds of acres of developable land but urban sprawl isn’t the immediate solution. As an example, our downtown area is in desperate need of residential occupants to bring back the vibrant, community-driven sector it once was. Economics changed and so did the landscape of this community. New residential development will create ownership of the downtown core, building a better tomorrow for our community. It will transition the current unstable environment into a flourishing hub of economics and popularity. This is part of a workable solution for housing in Campbell River and the City should focus on expediting residential development downtown.
There are several undeveloped lots in the Cedar Street vicinity and an empty bus depot. This area is ready for higher density residential development; around the corner is the old Ford Dealership which is a terrific location for multi CR3-4-5. This redevelopment would up our tax base significantly and create affordable residential solutions; building a better tomorrow for Campbell River and needed change to our downtown core.
The Official Community Plan (OCP) and city bylaws need to be updated to include tiny homes, carriage and laneway homes adding density to existing properties. Although higher density is one solution, there is still a large demand for R-1 Single family homes. Reviewing neighbourhoods for the RIGHT development solutions is KEY – Campbell River has large capital projects on the horizon and with the current rate of development, it’s critical to be planning the best city we can for our current needs and the generations to come!
The city needs to streamline the permitting process, open up more lots and complete infrastructure surveys so that we can promote the development of affordable single family home subdivisions and multi-unit, multi-use structures where it is acceptable to the community. Wether we build up, out or all of the above we need to increase the number of homes in town, and affordability for those on low or fixed incomes is critical.
What the city should be doing will of course be guided and directed by what they can do in terms of policy. This is a difficult area to regulate. Developers have land and building costs which are ever on the rise and it is unreasonable to expect them to operate at a loss. Having said that, what the city can do, is offer incentives to developers to refocus their plans to build moderate income housing instead of perhaps luxury condos.
Campbell River is growing and we need affordable housing for young families and singles to rent while they save in order to buy if they so choose.
In order to help alleviate some of the availability and affordability issues that Campbell River faces, the city has a continued partnership with B.C. Housing. These include CR Family Services, Makola, John Perkins Society, CR Head Injury Support Group and The Salvation Army.
In terms of new development, it would be beneficial for the city to continue making improvements to the development permit process. With development up 37%, perhaps the city could reallocate resources to keep up with the demand? There is much yet to learn, including a comprehensive understanding of the current revisions of the OCP and Land Use Planning documents. I look forward to learning as to what has already been done, what is currently being worked on, and when can we expect to have these completed.
I am a renter and I have been a homeowner, and we need to address the stigma around secondary suites, as there are many large homes on large lots in established neighbourhoods that could be part of creating more (and safer!) housing options for renters, and more options for homeowners. We’ve all heard conversations around empty-nesters deciding whether or not to sell their family home in an attempt to downsize - the option to create or renovate a home into one that houses two separate families could be well received by those homeowners.
The same holds true for homeowners at many different stages of life including first time buyers, people who work away, people who spend some of the year in warmer places, the list goes on. When two households separately share a home, there is an added sense of safety and overall looking out for one another and that property. Creating vibrancy and diversity in our neighbourhoods encourages neighbourly connections, and those connections strengthen our overall sense of community. We can look to communities that have success in their policies and adopt them into Campbell River’s growth and development strategies. As a City Councillor, I would support City staff and community organizations that support diverse housing initiatives to explore best practices and solutions for all residents in this community.
To a first-time home buyer, our market is unaffordable. To an individual moving from one market to another, say from lower mainland to Campbell River, our market is perceived as affordable. Subsidized housing for the homeless requires provincial and federal financial support along with municipal cooperation for zoning, permit approvals, and to a lesser degree, financial support.
The Planning & Development processes need to be simplified and expedited by updating and simplifying the Official Community Plan (OCP) to suit our size of city. Time is money in any Industry, and if it takes 5 months to get permits in Comox and 8 months in Campbell River, where would you choose to build? The longer a permit sits on a desk, the more expensive the end product.
The lack of residential and industrial lots within our city is our biggest issue. The current Urban Containment Boundary will eventually have to be extended. Luckily, acreage surrounding the city, available to be serviced and subdivided, is owned by a private landowner who would like to see the city expand.
Municipal development standards can go a long way in defining the type of residential subdivisions that will ensure quality housing for the long term.
Watch for more from the candidates in the pages of the Mirror between now and general election day, Feb. 27, and online at campbellrivermirror.com