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How might Sechelt's new zoning bylaw affect housing affordability?

Sechelt planners Andrew Allen and Samuel Hogg walked the Emergency Housing Action Table members through the work done so far to update the municipality’s 25-year-old zoning bylaw at a meeting on May 31.
Will densification help ease the housing crisis?

The Coast’s Emergency Housing Action Table’s regional housing coordinator Kelly Foley will draft a letter of support and comment on Sechelt’s proposed new zoning bylaw. It is to be ready for review by the group at its June 27 meeting, so that the comments can be forwarded to Sechelt by the July 4 deadline for comments on the bylaw proposal. 

Sechelt planners Andrew Allen and Samuel Hogg walked the table members through the work done so far to update the municipality’s 25-year-old zoning bylaw at a meeting on May 31.

Densification to help ease housing crisis

Table members questioned whether the increased housing density that the new bylaw may allow in certain zones will result in improved housing affordability.

Mayor Darnelda Siegers, who represents her municipality at the table,said that increasing density will allow more opportunities for units to be built. Quoting the law of ‘supply and demand,’ she said that with more housing supply, there should be downward pressure on residential rents. 

“Overall, more density will mean more housing options,” Allen said. He explained that the new zoning bylaw, as proposed, will create more options for secondary dwellings on lots that have appropriate infrastructure, such as roads and utilities, to support more density. To provide better information on how that potential change could affect housing availability in the municipality, he said that staff are working on a summary of the number of properties that would have more development potential. That information would be added to the resources about the planned bylaw changes that are available on the page.

Changes for downtown anticipated 

Another concern raised at the meeting was how frequently any new bylaw would be reviewed.  Allen said that the current aim is to have the bylaw ready for adoption by October and the upcoming local government elections. If that timeline is met, he said he anticipated staff would start a project plan for the downtown area as a first step. He estimated that work would take an additional year, meaning amendments to the new zoning bylaw to address the findings would likely be introduced in 2023 or 2024. 

In the professional views of the municipal planning staff, Allen said, “We think the (downtown area) density is too low and parking requirements are too high.” 

Pre-approved house plan options

Table member Mike Alsop described a housing densification approach implemented in Nelson, B.C.  In that community, stock plans for secondary dwellings that complied with the bylaws of that jurisdiction were made available. If a property owner opted to build using those plans, the municipal approval process was simpler and faster. There was general agreement by the group that the idea might be able to be put in place in Sechelt to help bring housing into the market faster.

Allen commented that the zoning bylaw update has been a major project, calling for “all hands on deck” from the planning department.  

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