The B.C. government has selected the first group of municipalities to receive housing targets in order to spur residential construction, which includes the City of Kamloops — the only Interior municipality on the list.
In a news release, the provincial ministry of housing said these housing targets are being set for municipalities with the highest projected growth and the greatest need.
The ministry said targets will encourage local governments to address barriers to construction so housing can be built faster, including updating zoning bylaws and streamlining approval processes.
“Our government is eager to work with this first cohort of municipalities to get shovels in the ground faster and ensure the homes people need get built,” said Ravi Kahlon, minister of housing, in a statement.
The province said it selected 10 municipalities using an objective, data-based process with the help of economists and other experts.
Along with Kamloops, other selected municipalities include Abbotsford, Delta, North Vancouver, Oak Bay, Port Moody, Saanich, Vancouver, Victoria and West Vancouver.
Kamloops Mayor Reid Hamer-Jackson said he doesn’t currently have details around timelines or how much more housing Kamloops will need to build, and he wasn’t sure why Kamloops was chosen.
“I want to know more about it,” he said, adding he hopes the initiative will result a wide spectrum of housing, and will have a positive impact on the city.
During a council meeting on Tuesday, councillors voted 5-3 in favour of a motion put forward by Coun. Nancy Bepple, which recommended sending a letter to the province requesting the City of Kamloops maintain responsibility for its land use decisions.
Hamer-Jackson, who briefly left council to speak with Kahlon before this motion was discussed, recused himself from the vote due to a conflict of interest but didn’t say why at that time.
“In the meeting, it kind of made me think different than what I was thinking before the meeting. So I felt, I don’t know if I’d say conflicted, but it changed my thinking a little bit,” Hamer-Jackson said.
It’s unclear if council will continue to move forward with sending the letter in light of the provincial government’s housing targets announcement.
City of Kamloops CAO David Trawin said the province will be meeting with city staff to find out more about what this means for Kamloops.
“Our concern is, what does it mean, if we don't hit the targets? Are the targets going to be reasonable? And if it’s something outside of our control that stops us from hitting the targets, what does that mean to the city?” Trawin said.
He said municipalities don’t build housing, so while the city can cut red tape, it has no control over developers, or the amount of trade workers available to build new homes. He noted much of the land left to be developed in Kamloops is held by a few landowners who can control what happens on their land.
He also said there are concerns around capacity for schools and other services.
Trawin noted the City of Kamloops is already moving towards a digital system for building permits and council has approved zoning changes allowing for gentle density in some areas of the city.
“If we have the targets in place, does that allow us to be a front runner in terms of accessing grants with BC Housing? All those types of questions we need to answer. It's very preliminary at this stage,” Trawin said, adding housing is a key priority for council.
Ryan Smith, City of Kelowna’s planning director, commented on the province’s decision to leave Kelowna out of the first housing target cohort.
“There are communities that approve a lot of housing and communities that don’t approve a lot of housing in that group,” Smith said.
“I know we are a good performer in terms of housing supply across the spectrum, but there are others that obviously aren’t. Something like this doesn’t scare us, and we’ll do what we do regardless of whether we’re on the list or not.”
Smith said the City of Kelowna will be working on its own housing targets, and will be watching as the province intends to add multiple intakes to the housing target program.
“We’re not in the first cohort, but it doesn’t mean we won’t be in the second or third, so we should be ready. We are going to have all the information and it makes sense to start tracking it.”
The province said it will consult with selected municipalities and set final housing targets over the summer.
Once targets are set, the province says it will monitor progress and work with municipalities to address any barriers, and will accelerate its own permitting processes across ministries.
A second group of eight to 10 municipalities will be chosen and notified in late 2023.
-With files from Wayne Moore