Coldstream takes look at housing needs, pressures

Housing under microscope

Coldstream council will take a hard look at housing needs in the community as the entire region continues to face a housing shortage.

A report to council to be considered at its committee of the whole meeting on Monday seeks guidance on changing legislation and frequent "front counter" comments.

Secondary housing on Agricultural Land Reserve property, secondary suites and carriage houses will all be up for discussion.

The Agricultural Land Commission has amended regulations to allow a detached second dwelling up to 960 square feet in the ALR. Previously, they were only allowed on properties of 20 acres or more or as temporary uses for family or farm workers.

Coldstream's zoning bylaw does not yet reflect the change.

Meanwhile, the provincial government has "strongly indicated that it intends to require that municipalities allow secondary suites in all single dwelling zones," the report continues.

"While it has not introduced legislation to this effect yet, this requirement has been built into the mandate letter of the minister of housing, and is expected in the near future."

Coldstream does not currently permit secondary suites in most residential neighbourhoods.

Further, recent changes to the BC Building Code allow the installation of secondary suites in duplexes or other multi family buildings. Coldstream's bylaws are silent on this issue.

Staff are seeking direction on bylaw amendments that would allow suites in all zones, rather than waiting for a provincial mandate.

While no official counts exists, the staff report acknowledges there are currently illegal suites in Coldstream.

"Municipalities have dealt with the issue of legalizing previously installed suites in many ways, ranging from complete grandfathering, to requiring minimal safety standards, through to mandating full code compliance," the report states.

Interest has been "very limited" in carriage homes, staff note, with only a single permit for a carriage house at Mackie Lake House issued.

High construction costs and increased financing costs are seen as possible issues behind the lack of interest.

Lot sizes for duplexes "is an item staff have recently been frequently engaging on at the counter."

The current minimum size is 1,200 square metres. Smaller lots are not permitted to install duplexes, and are limited to single-family homes with suites.

"This has led to confusion and some consternation at the counter by lot purchasers, who purchase a lot zoned Two Unit Residential, but are told by staff that they cannot build two units. Most lots in Coldstream zoned for duplexes cannot construct a duplex," the report notes.

Changing to an 800 square metre requirement would create the potential for 200 or more new residential units without expanding development footprint or servicing costs.

The district does not currently allow modular or prefabricated housing on residential lots, nor does it allow so-called 'tiny homes'.

Modular homes are permitted on rural or agricultural properties, however.

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