One of the key roles of a city council goes largely unnoticed by most citizens.
Maybe that’s less true than it used to be but this role does still, in my view, does not get the attention of potholes, snow removal, arts and recreation, community safety, and the yearly tax hike.
Most of the items on a council agenda concern land use and the design of various buildings.
The role council plays on behalf of the community making decisions on land use and building design have huge impact on housing affordability, community and neighbourhood attractiveness, and greenhouse gas reductions / increases.
At the last council meeting, for example, we talked quite a bit about single family housing. Every 10 years or so, we revise our official community plan (also known as Kamplan) and this past year, we were greatly under our planning goal for the creation of more single family homes. It’s still a bit unclear to me why we were under the goal. It might be the people are starting to prefer living more in multi family housing, it might be the lack of available land for single family homes, it might be the city is making it harder for single family homes to be built, and it might be a combination of some or all these factors, or something different.
I do think the city has started to, for good reason, show a preference for multi family housing - apartments, townhouse and condos, carriage suites, duplexes, and the like. It typically costs the community less as a whole to provide services to multifamily housing. More people living on a smaller land area (more density) allows for more neighbourhood vibrancy (more parks, schools, stores close by), and allows people to travel in a more friendly way to our climate (less greenhouse gas emissions.
But there is still an important and very fair demand for single family housing. And, as much as I am a promoter and a believer of the beauty of multi family housing, I totally respect and understand this. It’s a historical and cultural value for many people. And we have designated neighbourhoods in Kamplan for more single family homes.
The best neighbourhoods, in my view, offer a range of housing options. This offers a diverse group of neighbours the opportunity to get to know each other, offers an individual an opportunity to live their whole lives in a certain neighbourhood in different types of housing depending on where they are in their lives, and again offers the possibility of great vibrancy and energy.
The past year, we have seen a very large increase in the prices of homes all over Canada. And, while this is good for sellers of homes and real estate speculators, it offers real challenges for people trying to enter the housing market or who are looking for a home to rent. Council is monitoring this closely and Council’s Development and Sustainability committee will be discussing this in more detail and I think will bring solid recommendations to the full council for consideration and implementation. We should do whatever we are able to help ensure housing is affordable. We finally allowed secondary suites in most areas of the city a few years ago.
This post is a bit of a brain dump about issues that I have been thinking about lately. There is a lot more to say on all of this and a lot more to learn.
The protocol is the, after staff recommends to council certain policy and plans, based on fulsome public engagement, and council approves policies and plans, then the items that appear on the council agenda, which typically concern one proposal or another for a single building or lot, follow those policies and plans.