Housing emerges as Terrace municipal election issue

The ciy has taken steps to increase affordable housing inventory

With housing prices soaring and affordable rental units still in scarce supply, the city’s housing strategy promises to be a major focus in the municipal elections.

Over the past years the city has put in place a number of policies designed to promote housing development and the city is starting to see the results of those policies.

But some decisions related to increasing housing for lower or middle income earners have yet to bear fruit and are works in progress that will have to be tackled by the newly elected council.

One issue facing the new council is deciding how to spend $951,000 that was gained from the sale of land at the corner of Kenney and Park to Calgary-based Coast to Coast.

The current council decided that some of the money generated from that sale would be placed in a new affordable housing fund account created this year for housing-related initiatives.

But it will be up to the next council to decide how much of the nearly $1 million will be placed in the account and how it will be spent.

A group that has a housing project in mind can apply to the city for assistance if it meets a variety of criteria, including that their project mission meets the needs of a specific demographic.

A city policy setting out its objectives states projects should “supply affordable housing for low and moderate income family and single person households.”

The city also expects to bolster its affordable housing efforts by charging $500 a bed for a work camp being planned at its industrial park.

One tangible effort to provide affordable housing has yet to take hold and that’s contained in the sales agreement between Coast to Coast and the city for the above-mentioned Kenney and Park corner lot.

Coast to Coast has agreed to set aside 20 per cent of its planned 105 housing units there at a rate 20 per cent below market value for residents of moderate income.

Construction of those units has yet to start.

One area in which the city has been very active is in granting rezoning applications to property owners who wish to build housing and secondary suites or to subdivide lots.

A bylaw created just two years ago to allow for detached secondary suites in the R1 zone has led to the construction of six secondary suites this summer.

The last available city building report shows there was an increase in housing permits with a value totalling $19 million.

In August alone there were five new building permits for single family homes applied for by the city, bringing the year-to-date total to 28 and carrying an accumulated value of more than $6 million.

Eight new mobile home permits were also taken out and nine residential additions competed that month.

The total also includes five new multi-family residential development permits valued at $3,293,500.

Council decisions related to rezoning could pave the way for future multi-family housing.

A large parcel on the corner of Twedle and Thomas on the bench, just south of Uplands Elementary, might have in earlier years been set aside for single family homes.

But the city has now encouraged owner Colleen Froese to rezone the whole lot from R1 to R3 which will allow for townhouses or duplexes.

As for single family homes, there’s been a lot of construction activity on lots on existing subdivisions just east of Ecole Mountainview on the bench.

And two other subdivisions, also on the bench, are nearing registration status, says city development services director David Block.