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Solutions for long-term housing in Sicamous a priority

Options to obtain funding and zoning amendments discussed at housing, council meetings
Solutions for the lack of long-term, affordable housing in Sicamous are being worked towards by planning and development staff and council. (File photo)

Sicamous is taking steps to solve the housing crisis facing the community.

At the June 8 housing committee meeting, several possible solutions to assist the district in addressing the lack of long-term, affordable housing were proposed and discussed.

Firstly, implementation of proposed R-1 zoning and official community plan (OCP) amendment bylaws were discussed. Changes to the R-1 zone, intended to support gentle infill on low-density residential use parcels through secondary dwelling units, were proposed.

The zoning had been discussed at the May 24 committee of the whole meeting and its proposed changes currently being looked at include:

  • Updating the Low Residential OCP designation to allow for two secondary dwellings;
  • Amending the OCP to designate low density residential areas that are more readily developed as medium density residential to support gentle infill;
  • Applying for funding to establish a grant program for secondary dwellings units and building a library of pre-approved building plans;
  • Considering implementation of an infill zone, limiting the necessity to re-zone for multi-family residential when supported by the OCP.

At the June 14 regular council meeting, zoning amendment Bylaw No. 1038 and OCP amendment Bylaw No. 1039 were given first and second reading, applying to the R-1 zone.

The Housing Accelerator Fund (HAF) Action Plan was recommended to go to council for support and for staff to apply for the funding. HAF funding, through the Canadian Housing and Mortgage Corporation, can be granted if the district meets the minimum requirements of an average annual housing supply growth rate above 1.1 per cent, and a projected increase in housing supply growth rate at a minimum of 10 per cent, both of which the district meets.

The committee unanimously agreed to send the recommendation to council and, at the June 28 council meeting, the recommendation to have staff apply for the funding was carried. More information on HAF funding is available at the CMHC website.

Another unanimous vote from the committee came with the decision to send the Complete Communities Grant Application to council. This Union of BC Municipalities program supports communities to make decisions surrounding housing needs, supply and location in tandem with decisions about active transportation, walk-ability and infrastructure. The proposal went before council at the June 28 meeting, with staff recommending support, and the motion was carried with three councillors opposed. Staff was asked to apply for the grant. More information on the Complete Communities Grant is available at the UBCM website.

The district’s Housing Incentive Bylaw was discussed at the housing committee meeting, with a possible adoption at some point this year, said staff. A ‘living document’ with changes made as needed through amendments was favoured by the committee. The finance department is working on the bylaw, as well as a tax exemption one that fits into the district’s overall financial plan, said staff.

“Sicamous is three steps ahead of every other community as far as getting this stuff done,” said development services manager Scott Beeching after speaking about housing conferences and meetings he’s attended.

The next steps are to await funding decisions and plan a possible public Q&A so residents can speak to the planning department and a financial expert, said the committee.

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Rebecca Willson

About the Author: Rebecca Willson

I took my first step into the journalism industry in November 2022 when I moved to Salmon Arm to work for the Observer and Eagle Valley News. I graduated with a journalism degree in December 2021 from MacEwan University in Edmonton.
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