In a week, city councilors will make a decision on a strategy to improve housing affordability in Calgary, but one aspect of that strategy has some councilors at odds.
One of more than 80 recommendations included in the city’s upcoming housing strategy is for zoning reform and changing the core residential zoning district to include more housing types.
Currently, the majority of residential areas in the city are zoned to only allow single-family homes by default.
The recommendation would change the basic zoning type to RC-G, which would allow single-family homes, but also different dwellings like duplexes, triplexes and townhouses.
According to the city, the change would “simplify the process” for landowners and developers wishing to build.
Ward 8 County. Courtney Walcott said the change would remove a barrier of “uncertainty” for builders that prevents the development of various types of housing.
“There’s a lot of backlash around townhouse and townhouse development in all established areas,” Walcott told reporters. “You remove that uncertainty, and it allows builders to go into any community and build diverse housing.”
However, the whole of City Council disagrees with the proposed change to zoning in the Housing Strategy, which became a sticking point when the recommendations of the Housing Task Force were put to City Council. in June.
“I feel like it’s a planning policy that’s built into what’s called a housing solution, which some of us don’t agree with,” he said. said Ward Councilor 1.” said Sonya Sharp. “We cannot say that general rezoning will solve housing problems. »
Instead of making RC-G the default zoning, Sharp launched a motion signed by six other councilors that proposed streamlining the current zoning process in the city, emphasizing shorter timelines and incentives for developers applying to rezone a property as well as applying for a planning permit.
The city’s executive committee voted narrowly, 8 to 7, against allowing the motion to advance on Wednesday, citing procedural issues and a conflict with the housing strategy debate next week.
“The only option in (the recommendations) is a general rezoning of the entire city. It was an opportunity to reach a compromise,” Sharp told reporters after the vote. “That being said, it does not mean that the general rezoning is still in progress. »
Sharp said it plans to explore other alternatives to offer during the housing strategy debate.
She said she did not accept the argument of uncertainty, adding that “95 percent” of recla*sification requests have been approved since this council took office.
However, developers like Alkarim Devani have said the current rezoning process does not give developers “predictability of results”, which can lead to costly delays in housing projects.
Devani is the president of RndSqr, specializing in higher density developments like townhouses, townhouses and multi-residential buildings.
“Which is typically, for a duplex, a four month lead time to get to construction, we’ve had projects that take 24 months before we can get the shovel on the ground,” Devani told PKBNEWS. . “It’s the lack of predictability that can be really difficult with the current framework.”
Devani said the cost of such delays is usually pa*sed on to the tenant or buyer after the project is complete.
He said the current situation means that only a select group of builders will rise to the challenge of developing diverse housing types through RC-G rezoning.
“We are seeing pent-up demand in the market. What we need to do is reduce that red tape,” Devani said. “Allowing more developers to graduate in single-family home building, the ‘moms and dads’ of the world, so it’s easier for them to build townhouses and not have to navigate this very difficult zoning and administration process. »
In response to questions about the community’s contribution to development, Walcott said citizens will still be able to provide input when builders apply for a development permit; a process he is not proposing to change, but would like to see ‘strengthened’.
“The feedback loop needs to be better,” Walcott said. “So that more people can see themselves in the comments or at least understand how their comments have been incorporated into a building permit.”
The public will have their say on the proposed housing strategy at a committee meeting on September 14.
A special meeting of council was called the following Saturday for the city council to debate and make a decision on the housing strategy, if approved by the committee.
“We need multiple solutions,” Devani said. “There is no single trigger to solve this problem. »
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