Squamish council grapples with possibilities of rental-only zoning

Municipality looking for ways to protect 309 rental units in 12 buildings if redevelopment occurs, but fears unintended consequences

Faced with an ongoing housing shortage, Squamish council is considering using its new provincially granted powers to protect 309 rental units across 12 buildings.

“The option is to look at those properties and change the zoning so that the existing number of rental units are preserved in perpetuity,” said District planner Matt Gunn in a Feb. 19 meeting with council.

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“So if they get redeveloped, that number of rental units have to be replaced.”

Those units are located at 1917-1927 Diamond Rd; 40351-40361 Diamond Head Rd; 1951 Garibaldi Way; 1018 McNamee Pl; 1090 Wilson Crescent; 1098 Wilson Crescent; 38861-38865 Buckley Ave; 38064A Cleveland Ave; 38100 6th Ave; 38201 Westway Ave; and 38170, 38180, 38190 Westway Ave.

Also included was 41340 Government Rd, which is where Coun. Armand Hurford’s business, Republic Bicycles, is located. He recused himself from any discussions mentioning that address.

Squamish and all other municipalities throughout the province were recently granted the authority to rezone land into “rental tenure” zones.

In these lands, new residential housing must be developed as rental units, and existing rental housing must be preserved.

Victoria granted local governments this power after widespread outcries about housing shortage.

Gunn recommended applying this regulation specifically to the number of units in each site, as opposed to blanketing entire properties with this zoning.

He said that if council wanted to soften the blow to landowners, they could make notes in the Official Community Plan, or OCP, as to which properties become subject to rental tenure zoning.

Then, in the future, council could negotiate perks that could offset the perceived loss in value to the land, such as increased height or density with each property owner.

There were some concerns that there could be unintended consequences.

“If we zone in this direction the current stock, but we allow for redevelopment through a change in OCP policy, we may encourage gentrification faster than we want it,” said Mayor Karen Elliott.

“One of the bigger complaints I’ve heard in other municipalities is that we’re losing the older rental stock, which tends to be cheap.”

Gunn replied this would probably only happen if developers knew council would negotiate the perks he spoke of earlier. In light of that, council could opt to not put those notes on the Official Community Plan.

Coun. Armand Hurford was concerned that protecting the number of rental stock wouldn’t be enough — protections on the size of each rental unit should be implemented as well, he said.

Councillors also expressed a need for price protections as well.

Nothing has been finalized yet. Staff will be working on this project in the coming months.

 

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