Coldstream not dodging housing mandate, mayor says in response to armchair critics

Coldstream: easy to trash us

Coldstream's mayor says the district is not attempting to dodge incoming rules under B.C.'s Homes for People plan that will encourage greater development.

After Mayor Ruth Hoyte questioned the plan's "one-size-fits-all" approach, Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon replied in a letter to council that B.C.'s housing shortage is "urgent" and all municipalities "have a role to play."

But, after being taken to task on social media, Hoyte says Coldstream is doing what it can and needs more information.

"Eventually, Coldstream is going to have to open up to more housing. It's either going to be on their terms or the government's... 'Rural living at its best' (Coldstream's slogan) can't be ignoring the housing crisis no matter how much they'd like to," political pundit Dawn Tucker wrote on the Vernon & Area Political Discussion Forum.

That prompted a rare social media response from Hoyte, who said:

"We are already doing our part, updating bylaws to allow secondary suites and carriage houses, applications are generally approved. 60% of our land is in ALR, we look carefully at those applications for additional housing. Development applications with multi-family housing, we have said yes to. We need to have infrastructure to support larger multi-family developments, provincial government had turned down our requests."

Hoyte told Castanet it's easy to "trash" Coldstream, but the reality is "Coldstream is not Vernon" and doesn't have the infrastructure and services to take on a huge increase in high-density or supportive housing.

She said the district is "adjusting" its policy on secondary suites and is aware there are a "significant amount" of short-term rentals, which are not permitted in the municipality, that affect rental availability.

"It's currently complaint based, but council will be looking at that," said Hoyte.

"We are looking at things we can do to increase the housing inventory and reviewing bylaws."

Hoyte said her letter to Kahlon sought more information and that the province take into consideration the diversity and size of communities.

"Respectfully, we request you consider that there are other communities, just as unique as ours, for which a province-wide, 'one-size-fits-all' approach to increasing housing supply may not be in their best interest and may result in communities that no longer resemble the ones that people chose to live in," her letter stated.

"We're not in the business of development, but when proposals come in front of us, we look at them – most times favourably," Hoyte told Castanet.

Coldstream is working towards approval of secondary dwellings on an Agricultural Land Reserve properties, with a suggested minimum lot size of four hectares.

Meanwhile, Hoyte dismissed the belief that the district is "cracking down" on secondary suites.

A realtor who asked to remain anonymous for fear going public would jeopardize her clients' sales contacted Castanet to say Coldstream has "upped its game" on the suites and "is trying to close them" before legislation expected this fall under the Homes for People plan comes into effect.

"Why are they putting their foot down when they know this is coming?" the realtor asked.

The realtor suggested sellers are afraid to speak out as "they don't want a target on their back."

The provincial plan would legalize secondary suites on virtually any residential lot in B.C. to ease the housing crisis.

"It's seems punitive to chase this now," the realtor said.

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