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Sunshine Coast considers higher density in rural areas

Affordable housing need drives proposed policy revisions to allow for higher densities in exchange for social units
Sechelt Inlet

Bylaw changes could be coming that will make it easier to increase housing density in rural areas on the Sunshine Coast.

Staff have been working under the direction of Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) directors to create densification policies that will support affordable housing. The latest revisions to these policies include attempts to make it easier for them to fit in with official community plans for Halfmoon Bay, Roberts Creek, West Howe Sound and Elphinstone.

“Overall, the revised policies are a balanced approach to address many competing interests,” said SCRD planner Yuli Siao, adding that the intent is to provide a practical strategy to support the development of affordable housing “while maintaining a sustainable environment and the character of the rural areas.”

Key changes to the policies include creating clear technical and location criteria for densification in and outside of “village hubs,” density bonuses for affordable housing and housing for those with special needs.

Policies are meant to encourage infill such as auxiliary dwellings, as well as the creation of mixed-use developments that combine commercial and residential uses, and to prevent “the proliferation of large-scale residential development in areas outside of established village hubs,” according to staff.

For example, developments that exceed established density limits would have to make a contribution to affordable or special needs housing. A policy encouraging the use of housing agreements to secure long-term affordable housing is also in the works.

Staff are also working on a policy to preserve the “community identity and character” of rural communities, by encouraging developments that fit the scale, layout, building design and landscaping of neighbouring properties.

Directors voted for the revised policies to be distributed to advisory planning commission meetings. A public hearing to consider the proposed amendments has been proposed for July 23, pending director approval at a future board meeting.

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