A staff report on affordable housing turned into a hot potato at White Rock council’s meeting on Monday night, as residents – many concerned about far-reaching recommendations advocating higher density, including hybrid towers of market and non-market housing – filled council chambers.
The report on the Housing Advisory Committee’s Affordable Housing Strategy Action Plan, authored by consulting city planner Joe Calenda, was removed from the agenda on a motion from Coun Erika Johanson.
“I believe it’s premature,” she said. “Council did not ask for this report – the terms of reference (for such reports) are that they are to be approved by council, and this one wasn’t.”
“This definitely blindsided me,” said Coun. Scott Kristjanson.
“I didn’t expect to see this report and I would have expected council to vet it before it came forward.
“This looks like it proposes lots of major changes to an OCP we just approved and to me it causes stress for our residents, it causes stress for me and others.
“We shouldn’t be doing this publicly, in my opinion, until we’ve had a chance for us to vet it, and our committees.
But some of the measures suggested in the plan were later raised during discussion of Housing Advisory Committee recommendations.
Some of them were not officially received by council at the suggestion of committee chair Coun. Anthony Manning, who said that he did not agree with all 11 “pillars” of the plan developed by the committee, which includes invited members of the community.
Others were removed from council consideration because they anticipate potential provincial legislation which will likely seek to streamline approval of affordable housing proposals on a municipal level by delegating more approval authority to municipal staff and waiving public hearings.
Council ultimately received for information that the committee endorses a recommendation to “accelerate and depoliticize the approval process” – primarily by having the city automatically approve proposals that meet the requirements of the Official Community Plan.
It also received for information that the committee endorses appealing to the provincial government to be able to access money raised through the Speculation and Vacancy Tax to fund affordable housing on the local level.
It did not, however, receive the committee recommendation that would abolish exclusive single-family zones in the city.
Also not received was a recommendation that would amend Town Centre transition area boundaries and establish the possibility of 14-storey towers in the transition area and 18-storey towers in the Town Centre areas, provided that 50 per cent of the housing in such ‘hybrid’ towers was non-market.