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No need for new Brookswood plans: Housing Minister

Kahlon says no more major changes on housing in near future
Ravi Kahlon in Langley in April to speak about short term rentals. (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance Times)

Fourplexes are coming to Langley soon, but Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon said that doesn’t mean the end of the traditional single-family home just yet.

“There’s no ban on single-family homes,” he noted in an interview with the Langley Advance Times.

But the new rule changes, taking effect at the start of July, will allow threeplexes, fourplexes, and in areas with frequent transit service, sixplexes to be built on any single-family zoned lot in most of B.C., including in Langley.

The new rules, including those found in Bill 44, were introduced last year, shortly after Langley Township had completed a major revamp of its Brookswood neighbourhood plans.

With the changes potentially meaning a big increase in the total population of the neighbourhood, the Township council voted to go back to the drawing board again, and unveiled new proposed plans in late April.

But Kahlon said the previous plans didn’t need a major revamp, from his point of view.

“I didn’t see in the legislation why that needed to be re-done,” Kahlon said.

He emphasized the need for development for the growing population.

“When you have mountains, water, and border around you… you have to make the best use of land you have,” said Kahlon.

The changes to housing legislation Kahlon has introduced have led to him receiving a significant amount of criticism from Township Mayor Eric Woodward, even as the two have stood at the same podium in recent weeks to announce new affordable housing projects as part of the BC Builds strategy.

At one point last year, Woodward likened the legislation to “surgery on housing policy with a chainsaw.”

Although they’ve been at odds, it has largely been over methods of building more housing, with Woodward arguing that the Township was shouldering more than its share of home creation within B.C.

Asked how much interest builders had in the three-, four-, and sixplex designs, Kahlon said it was “huge.”

He said there will be a learning curve in the short term as builders of single-family homes begin building the newer-style housing as well, but he pointed to the province’s plan to create sets of standardized designs for such homes to fit a variety of lots and scales.

Those designs are expected to be added to over the years, with more being released annually.

One reason for creating widely-available designs is to make it easier for cities to process development applications. The designs will be familiar to staff who oversee the process.

On top of that, the province is creating a digital permit tool.

Builders will be able to file their designs and systems can check for compliance. Ideally, the next step is that builders will be able to identify their land parcel, answer a few questions through an online form, and receive a menu of housing designs that will fit the site.

Adding accessory dwellings to existing lots will also be a part of the densification of existing neighbourhoods, Kahlon said.

Data from Los Angeles, where similar reforms were put in place some years ago, showed that 30 per cent of all housing starts were accessory dwelling suites after the changes were approved.

Kahlon noted that there will still be areas of B.C., including in Langley, where single-family homes are built for years, because there is a market for them.

And there will be a learning curve as builders of single-family homes switch to the new forms, he noted.

As for where the new fourplexes will be built, Kahlon said he expects to see more of them in areas with transit, with Langley City seeing more in the near future than suburban areas of the Township.

Kahlon said his government isn’t planning any more major changes to land use or housing policy in the near future.

“We are going to let the system absorb this,” he said, noting it will take time for people to adjust.

READ MORE: Housing legislation like surgery with a chainsaw, says Langley Township mayor

READ MORE: Many questions around new housing density: SFU expert

Matthew Claxton

About the Author: Matthew Claxton

Raised in Langley, as a journalist today I focus on local politics, crime and homelessness.
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