Kelowna council pumps brakes on apartment redevelopment over concerns for current renters

Council slows development

Kelowna city council have temporarily paused a development on Mills Road while it awaits a discussion on a tenant relocation and subsidy policy.

At the present time the city has a policy pertaining to the redevelopment of mobile home parks but not for multi-unit apartments.

The application by Kerr Properties would see a 20-unit apartment demolished to make way for a 55-unit rental building at 163 Mills.

The fate of those 20 tenants was top of mind for council as they were asked to give first three readings to the rezoning application.

However, planning director Ryan Smith cautioned council about trying to deal with this as a one-off.

Instead, he suggested it be dealt with as part of a broader policy discussion.

“That was a piece of work identified in the Official Community Plan and was likely going to come as a near-term recommendation coming out of the housing strategy,” Smith told council.

“That is something we could do our best to accelerate and bring back to council but I think it would be giving council bad advice to have staff negotiate with developers file-by-file in the interim.

“Not knowing what the bar is and having uneven policy applied is a slippery slope, but having said that, reading the emails from the renters, there is a matter of concern.”

Smith says work on a relocation policy was delayed while staff worked on implementation of the provincial housing legislation but believes staff could now jump into it “in short order.”

“Generally I am a supporter of density, especially when it is a single unit home that is being replaced but this is multi-units being replaced with multi-units,” said Coun. Loyal Wooldridge who led the discussion.

“We are in a unique situation where we have never seen the unaffordability of housing at the level it is at today,” added Coun. Luke Stack.

“So many of our policies are geared toward trying to provide affordable housing and there is nothing that makes us all cringe more than to lose something that is affordable.

“I do recognize the need for redevelopment in this area but I would feel much better if I knew there was a better transition plan.”

Coun. Ron Cannan suggested deferring a decision on the Mills Road application until council can have a discussion around a relocation and subsidy package.

Council voted unanimously to wait to have that discussion later this year.

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