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More infill housing could be 1 solution to address Kelowna's housing challenges, says report

As one of the fastest growing communities in the country and with upwards of 50,000 people expected in the next 20 years, the City of Kelowna is working to prioritize infill housing.

An update on work done on the Infill Options project headed to city council on Monday says adding new infill houses in existing core area neighbourhoods is one of the solutions needed to accommodate this expected growth.

The challenge staff find is that more than 90% of lots within core area neighbourhoods are not zoned to permit infill. This limits housing supply, creates uncertainty, slows production, and adds cost, according to the report.

Infill housing fills the gap in size and price between apartments and single-detached homes. This type of housing sees ground-oriented housing replace single-detached houses with several units on the same floor and each unit has an exterior facing, ground floor front doors, says the report.

“Ground-oriented infill housing has proven popular and successful in Kelowna,” the report adds.

In 2017, the city-initiated a bulk rezoning of approximately 800 lots in the downtown and Pandosy neighbourhoods.

This 10-fold increase in the development of this type of infill once appropriate zoning was in place demonstrates led to the average number of infill projects to increase from two to 23 per year.

Now, to accommodate Kelowna’s rapid population growth, city staff have identified 3,000 lots in areas east of downtown and the Rutland Urban Centre that have “economic potential” for redevelopment. Not all of those lots would be redeveloped, however, it shows that new infill housing would be dispersed in small amounts across large areas.

<who> Photo Credit: City of Kelowna

The project looks at pre-zoning that would enable the development of infill across a larger portion of core area neighbourhoods.

The report notes that infill housing will not be able to solve all housing challenges facing the community but is one of the numerous approaches to increasing the supply and diversity of housing.

In April, the provincial government released an action plan to increase the production of “small-scale, multi-unit townhomes” by introducing mandatory standards across the province.

This would allow up to four units on traditional single-family detached lots with additional density allowed in the area well-served by transit.

“The City of Kelowna is already a leader and early adopter of infill housing delivery with hundreds of units constructed in recent years,” says the staff report.

“The Infill Options project will better position the City to respond to this upcoming legislative change by updating our infill housing response.”

Before taking any further steps, staff say they will study the impacts of infill housing on water infrastructure for firefighting and funding of improvements to streets, sidewalks, curbs and more.

An information campaign recently launched and will be gathering information developers and the community. Over the summer months staff will prepare a package of detailed bylaw amendment proposals to bring forward to Council for consideration in early fall.

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