Home Sweet Home Summit to bring housing experts, developers from across B.C. to Kelowna

City hosting housing summit

Housing experts and stakeholders will be meeting in Kelowna this week to address housing challenges in the Central Okanagan and around the province.

The Home Sweet Home Summit is being held in Kelowna on Friday at the Delta Grand Hotel and will feature a cross-section of experts including municipal government, modular construction, education, utilities, real estate, and legal experts.

“Bringing together experts from various sectors signifies our collective dedication to finding tangible solutions for the housing challenges in our local communities," says Krista Paine, president of the Canadian Home Builders Association - Central Okanagan.

"By fostering collaboration and innovation, we aim to bridge the housing gap and make home ownership more attainable for our community."

Organizers say the summit is more than a gathering, "it's a call to action."

The organizers are hoping the interactive environment will facilitate collaboration across different sectors. "By the end of the day, the goal is to see concrete, accountable, time-defined actions that will drive positive change in the housing sector," says Paine.

The summit will explore innovative approaches to housing development, with a focus on 'missing middle housing,' which includes duplexes, row houses, and townhomes that can provide a pathway to home ownership.

The keynote speaker is Julia Deans, president and CEO of Habitat for Humanity Canada, the country’s only affordable home ownership organization. Deans will encourage attendees to challenge perceived barriers to building housing and encourage imaginative and innovative solutions to the housing crisis.

“Everyone has a role to play in solving Canada's housing crisis, and that's why events like this one are important," says Deans. "At Habitat for Humanity, we know that innovative partnerships and collaboration are key to putting more families on the path to affordable home ownership. I look forward to sharing our experience doing that in Central Okanagan, and communities across Canada."

Former Victoria mayor Lisa Helps, now a part of David Eby’s housing strategy task force, will serve as a facilitator for some of the sessions.

"We are thrilled to have both Julia Deans and Lisa Helps join us alongside most of our local Okanagan municipal heads of planning, developers, home builders, engineers, legal and financial representation, and other interested decision makers,” says Daniel Winer, executive officer of the Canadian Homebuilders Association.

"Their expertise and insights will be instrumental in helping guide some of the discussions and fostering meaningful collaborations among the attendees."

Municipal representatives from Kelowna, Lake Country, West Kelowna, Vernon, OKIB, and Westbank First Nations will be at the summit.


Big White Ski Resort sets new 10-day record between BC Family Day and US Presidents' Week

New record at Big White

Big White Ski Resort has made history, setting a new all-time record for visitor attendance during the ten days encompassing BC Family Day and U.S. Presidents' Week.

Skier visits were up compared to last year, while ski school, retail, rentals, and food and beverage services enjoyed single-digit increases.

Total chairlift rides reached 524,000, marking a 16 per cent increase over the previous year but the resort saw growth in multiple areas.

The Globe Dining had a record-breaking week with two nights of live music, a comedy show, and a winemaker's dinner. Location Mountain Management Services Ltd. also reported full bookings throughout this peak period, with Heightened Mountain Management experiencing a 3.5 per cent overall increase in bookings.

This period marks the highest number of tourism visits in the resort's 60-year history.

"The phenomenal snow conditions this season have truly set the stage for an unprecedented influx of visitors," explains senior vice president Michael J. Ballingall. "It's clear that snow makes all the difference in the world, and with the highest snow base in B.C., we've seen a significant influx of visitors from the lower mainland and Washington State."

Ballingall says the resort's conditions have resonated with both new and returning guests looking to enjoy a winter holiday this season, "it's nice to live up to the reputation as the place to go for lots of snow."

Big White Ski Resort boasts an 182 cm snow base, with 16 lifts and 118 runs open.

The Big White Water Company reported unprecedented water and sewer flows on Saturday, February 17, and Sunday, February 18, underscoring the substantial number of guests staying and living at the resort.

UBCO murder trial delayed, defence may seek not criminally responsible ruling

UBCO murder trial delayed

The murder trial for the man charged in the killing of a UBC Okanagan security guard has been postponed.

During a voir dire hearing (a hearing to determine the admissibility of evidence) at the Kelowna courthouse on Monday, defence lawyer Grant Gray told the judge that he has requested a second psychiatric assessment for his client, Dante Ognibene-Hebbourn, calling the original assessment “ambivalent”.

Gray said it is quite likely that the accused will admit to part of the Crown’s case, but he would be seeking a new trial to argue that his client was not criminally responsible, due to a mental disorder, for his actions in the early morning hours of Feb. 26, 2022.

That’s when Harmandeep Kaur, 24, was attacked while on duty at the Kelowna campus. She later died in hospital. Ognibene-Hebbourn, who also worked at the university as a night janitor, was arrested near the scene and detained under the Mental Health Act. He was charged with second degree murder a little over a month later.

Kaur arrived in Canada as an international student in December 2015, and was granted permanent residency status in January 2022. Her cousin told Castanet that the young woman was planning to become a paramedic, calling her intelligent, funny and willing to help anyone.

Monday’s voir dire began after Ognibene-Hebbourn re-elected to be tried by judge alone, instead of by judge and jury. At issue in the hearing was whether the statements he gave to Kelowna RCMP on April 5 and 6, 2022 were given voluntarily.

A decision on the admissibility of his statements was delayed to deal with the rescheduling of the trial.

Gray said that it could be a couple of months before the new psychiatric assessment comes back. Crown counsel David Grabavac indicated that the Crown would likely have to get its own assessment done after the defence report comes in, and that could further delay the trial until the late summer or even the fall of 2024.

He also said the timing would depend on whether the Crown and defence agree on the not criminally responsible designation.

The case will be back in court March 18 to hopefully fix a date for a new trial.

When the courts find a person not criminally responsible for a crime due to mental disorder, they are referred to the BC Review Board, which provide legal oversight of treatment and supervision for an indefinite amount of time.


Warm weather records broken in Okanagan while mountain passes get buried

Weather records broken

The balmy winter weather Sunday resulted in temperature records falling in the Okanagan.

Environment Canada says the “vigorous frontal system” that moved over the province also brought heavy snow to the mountain passes.

Penticton reached 16.3 C on Sunday, topping a previous record of 14.7 C set in 1986.

Summerland hit 15.1 C, above the old record of 14.5 set in 1986.

And finally, Vernon climbed to 13.6 C, breaking the previous record of 12.5 C set in 1986.

Records in all communities have been kept since the early 20th century.

While it was warm in the valley bottom, the mountain passes were buried in snow.

Thirty centimetres fell on the Coquihalla Summit, 26 cm on Allison pass, 16 cm on Kootenay Pass, 10-15 cm on Rogers Pass and 9 cm on the Yellowhead Highway.

Temperatures in the Thompson-Okanagan are expected to dip during the first part of the week, with rain or flurries in the forecast.

Jann Arden, Rick Mercer plot 16-date Canadian comedy and storytelling tour

Comedy tour at Prospera

Canadian funny people Jann Arden and Rick Mercer are joining forces for a cross-country storytelling tour this spring, including a stop in Kelowna.

The “Insensitive” singer-turned-comedian and the “This Hour Has 22 Minutes” comedian-turned-commentator are plotting a 16-date run of shows that promise “an evening of laughter, stories and successes from their careers in entertainment.”

Promoter Live Nation says the Will They or Won’t They Tour begins in Kitchener, Ont., on April 27 before heading out across much of Canada.

Each night, Arden and Mercer will set the stage for a “free-wheeling, unscripted, unrehearsed and unrestrained discussion” about their lives.

Arden is a Juno-winning singer-songwriter who more recently appeared in her own CTV sitcom “Jann,” while Mercer parlayed his comedy career into the satirical political CBC series “The Rick Mercer Report."

B.C. and Alberta dates of the tour include:

  • May 21, 2024 - Edmonton, AB - Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium
  • May 22, 2024 - Calgary, AB - Southern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium
  • May 25, 2024 - Kelowna, BC - Prospera Place
  • May 26, 2024 - Victoria, BC - McPherson Playhouse
  • May 27, 2024 - Vancouver, BC - The Centre

Big White race raised $17k for adaptive snowsports

$17k raised for program

The annual TELUS Kelowna Cup was held at Big White Saturday, raising more than $17,000 to help people with disabilities succeed at snow sports.

The annual race has been held at Big White since 2015, raising a total of $190,000 over the years for charitable causes. This year, the $17,135 raised went to the Powderhound Adaptative Snowsports program.

The Powderhounds program is designed to assist anyone at any age with physical, cognitive, or sensory challenges who want to enjoy the slopes at Big White.

Saturday's event saw participants collect their RFID timing chips Saturday morning, before taking two laps through the track set up in the TELUS Park.

Rather than going for the fastest time, participants aim to match the time of their two runs as close as they can. A “best dressed” award was also handed out, which led to participants donning a whole array of wild costumes.

Big White also pledged to match donations up to $10,000.

"This infusion of funds will greatly enhance the program's capacity to serve the community," Big White says.

Kelowna Chamber of Commerce welcomes three new board members

Three new chamber faces

There are three new members on this year’s Kelowna Chamber of Commerce board of directors.

The chamber has announced its 11-member board for 2024-25 and it includes a wide range of business people from the community.

Sandhill Winery’s Dobrila Braunstein, Rush Ihas Harwick LLP’s Laurel Hogg and Emil Anderson Group’s Ryan Malcolm are the new faces on the board, and they are joined by eight incumbents.

The incoming executive, including chairperson Maryse Harvey of MH2 Advisory Services, vice-chairperson Derek Gratz of UBC Okanagan and secretary Patrick Bobyn of Pushor Mitchell, was elected by acclamation.

The returning members of the board are:

  • Sarang Gokhale, Mission Group
  • Amarjit Lalli, TS Lalli Holdings
  • Treena Piva, Real Property Management
  • Paula Quinn, KF Aerospace Centre for Excellence
  • Carmen Rempel, Kelowna’s Gospel Mission
  • Curtis Tarapaski, Cairo Developments
  • Marina Warrender, KPMG
  • Chris Wills, Venture Commercial Realty

“We are pleased to welcome several new directors with some very relevant new skill sets as a result of an election that generated an unprecedented level of interest,” Harvey said in a press release. “I also would like to thank our outgoing chair, Dan Price, for leading us for the past year including through the development of our new strategic plan.

“We are pleased that Dan will stay on the board as an ex-officio member this year. I also would like to offer our gratitude to those directors who are stepping down. You were important contributors to our success in 2023.”

The chamber will introduce its new board of directors at its annual general meeting on April 4 at Kelowna’s Coast Capri Hotel.

Kelowna's mayor expects more discussions around provincial housing legislation

Housing talks to continue

Kelowna Mayor Tom Dyas believes the province is open to the possibility of making some changes to housing-related legislation introduced over the past few months.

However, speaking during a one-on-one interview, Dyas doesn't believe anything is imminent.

"I believe a lot of the legislation will stay intact. There is a short period of time before the province goes into a provincial election so I believe everything will stay intact until after the election," said Dyas.

"Then there will be further discussions around the concerns communities are having."

For the City of Kelowna, those concerns center around the effect infill housing could have on the heritage conservation area and how short-term rental legislation could affect tourism.

Dyas says he brought up those concerns with provincial Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon when he was in town last week to open the STEP Place tiny home site.

Dyas described the minister as very attentive and very understanding during those discussions.

Speaking on legislation limiting short-term rentals, Dyas says it has already had an affect with more long-term rentals becoming available in the market.

"There has also been an element of change on pricing with respect to a lot of areas," he said.

"Some of it is working but they are also realizing communities are tourism-oriented like this community and others, and there needs to be further discussions on how we can amend those and change that."

The heritage area is more complex since it encompasses both the heritage conservation area and KGH which has been designated a transit oriented area.

"The item that comes about with the transit oriented area being around the hospital is there are a lot of people that work within that hospital area so recognizing that, and to save people from commuting, greater densification around the hospital area would be welcome," said Dyas.

"The affect on that is that we also want to be cautious on what we are doing in the heritage area."

It's a double-edged sword says Dyas, with the need to densify areas where people work while at the same time preserving and protecting the heritage area.

"It's striking a balance somewhere in between," he said.

"So yes, we stated how important that is to the community. I know there will be more discussions about it but I don't think anything will change substantially before the election."

Power knocked out in parts of Lake Country, Lumby

Thousands without power

UPDATE 10:25 p.m.

In a statement online, BC Hydro says strong winds have caused power outages for thousands of customers across the Thompson, Shuswap, Okanagan and Kootenay areas.

“Wind brought trees and branches down onto our power lines, and all available crews are continuing to work through the night to restore power,” BC Hydro said. “At this time, we expect some customers in these areas will remain without power overnight. Updates for individual outages and estimated restoration times will be posted as they're available.”

BC Hydro estimated the Lake Country outage would be restored by 10 p.m.

A power outage in the Enderby area is impacting more than 2,200 customers. There is no estimated time of restoration for that outage. There are numerous other outages in the Shuswap. BC Hydro’s outage map is here.

UPDATE: 7:10 p.m.

Another power outage caused by a wind storm has left more than 1,500 BC Hydro customers in the dark Sunday evening.

The outage was reported just after 6 p.m. east of Vernon near Lumby.

According to BC Hydro, crews have not yet been assigned to this power outage.

Crews are still on site at an outage affecting just under 2,000 homes in the Carrs Landing area of Lake Country.

BC Hydro says power is estimated to return to these properties by 10 p.m.

UPDATE 4:20 p.m.

Power has now been restored on the west side of Okanagan Lake.

Just under 2,000 homes in the Carrs Landing area of Lake Country and south end of Coldstream remain in the dark.

BC Hydro says a crew has been assigned to the outage and should arrive on scene at 5:15 p.m. The outage is due to a tree down on lines.

UPDATE: 2:10 p.m.

Power has now been knocked out on both sides of Okanagan Lake Sunday, near Fintry and north of Lake Country.

On the west of the lake, 1,398 homes are without power after a tree fell on power lines. On the east side of the lake, another 712 homes are without power in the Okanagan Centre area.

The cause of the Okanagan Centre outage is still under investigation, and it's not clear if the two outages are related.

ORIGINAL: 1:35 p.m.

More than 1,300 homes are without power along Westside Road near Fintry Sunday afternoon.

According to BC Hydro, a tree fell across power lines just after noon, knocking out power to 1,398 homes along Westside Road.

The outage runs from about Shelter Cove Road north to Killiney Beach.

Strong winds are forecast to persist across much of the Interior Sunday. A tree across power lines has also knocked out power and closed Highway 97 east of Kamloops Sunday.

Okanagan-based female investors give to two female-owned businesses

Women invest in women

An Okanagan investment firm consisting of nothing but women has launched its Fund 2, investing in a pair of Canadian female owned and operated businesses.

Okanagan Women’s Mentoring and Angel Network, which is known as OKGN WMAN, consists of more than 40 female investors and has invested an undisclosed amount of capital into Rainstick Shower and Apricotton.

Rainstick Shower, which is North America’s first circulating shower, is based in Kelowna and last year was named one of Time Magazine’s Best Inventions of 2023. It marks the third time OKGN WMAN has invested in Rainstick Shower.

“We’re extremely thrilled to have the continued support from OKGN WMAN, who are helping us realize our mission of building water technology that allows people to thrive using only 50 litres of water per person, per day,” Rainstick Shower CEO Alisha McFetridge said in an OKGN WMAN social media post.

Apricotton is a Canadian-based teen apparel brand that designs what it claims are the only bras globally that grow as girls grow, helping the 90% of teen girls embarrassed to wear their first bra.

“We’re proud to bring OKGN WMAN on board as an investor,” CEO Jessica Miao said in the same post. “We’re grateful to grow alongside strategic female investors as the right mentorship and support system goes a long way for Gen Z female founders like ourselves.”

OKGN WMAN launched in 2021.

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