News

Housing woes to opportunities

December 1, 2021
Council Column

Quesnel needs more housing: supported, affordable, seniors, rental, family, multi-unit, townhouse/row house, single-family residential, etc. This need will grow as we work with Northern Health to get our seniors’ care needs met locally, as more businesses expand their operations in town, and as Osisko Development Corporation’s Cariboo Gold project (formerly known as Barkerville Gold Mine) moves to full production in early 2024.

Yet, we have some very particular challenges when it comes to housing; challenges that will require us to be very creative and deliberate about how we meet both our current and future housing needs.

First, as much as house prices (and rental prices) have risen in Quesnel over the past few years, the market value of new development here is still nowhere near what is needed to attract large scale development. Most larger developers require a much faster and higher rate of return on their investment than they can currently get in Quesnel.

Second, we are land pinched; that is, we don’t have a lot of easily developable property left in the City limits. This is compounded by the fact we live in a geologically complex river valley that requires us to be sensitive on where and how we build due to slow moving landslides and floodplains.

Third, the large tracts of developable lands that do exist generally require significant infrastructure investment to extend into new areas or upsize current infrastructure needed (water, sewer, drainage, hydro, natural gas, roads, etc.) to create properly serviced lands to develop into housing units. To properly service an area is an added cost limiting returns for a developer seeking to build much needed housing here.

As a result of the challenges outlined above, we are going to have to be very creative and entrepreneurial in how we approach meeting our community’s housing needs, especially if we want all new housing to be built to the highest standards, including new standards for greenhouse gas emissions (e.g. net zero housing).

As part of the City’s comprehensive housing strategy, we enabled secondary suites and accessory housing (secondary dwelling, carriage house) in all areas of the City when we updated the City’s Official Community Plan and Zoning Bylaw. Expanding quality rental housing opportunities within our existing stock of single-family residential housing is potentially the quickest and most economical way to expand housing options in the City. We will be completing a community project to develop new BC Building Code ready building plans for a secondary dwelling and carriage house.

We’ve also created an incentive package for new housing development that includes a five- or ten-year property tax relief, as well as a waiving of development cost charges.

We have identified developable properties owned by the City and have open RFPs for developers to provide proposals for multi-unit developments. There are opportunities available on Kinchant Street and Neighbour Road.

We have seen the development of four large non-profit housing projects in the City over the last few years and have a couple of projects that are on the books but awaiting funding sources. Our Development Services Department has seen a substantial increase in interest from market housing developers over the past couple of years (and a record number of building permits have been issued), but we are still looking for market housing projects to fill the needs identified. Our team is continuing to work with developers to encourage the investments needed to prepare for the housing demands we are anticipating.

If you have creative ideas about how we can expand our housing opportunities in Quesnel and attract more housing development, we’re all ears. Please share your ideas by emailing us at cityhall@quesnel.ca.

Mayor Bob Simpson

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