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Council waters down Central Green affordable housing, environmental targets

Tuesday, March 9th, 2010 | 5:30 am

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By John McDonald

Kelowna council has lowered both affordable housing and green building targets for the Central Green project on the former KSS site.

Based on a staff recommendation, council voted to drop its requirement for affordable housing from 20 per cent of the 700 or so units the development will eventually contain down to 15 per cent.

Councillors also agreed to pull back on plans to have all the buildings in Central Green be certified to a LEED Gold standard. Instead, the project will aim for LEED Gold Neighbourhood status, with all buildings LEED certified, the lowest rating.

The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Green Building Rating System was developed by the U.S. Green Building Council. It sets standards for the environmentally sustainable design, construction and operation of buildings and neighborhoods.

In a report to council, manager of strategic land development Derek Edstrom said the higher standards for affordable housing and green design made it unlikely a developer could find financing for the projects.

Most councillors echoed Coun. Robert Hobson, who said he thought it was a “reasonable compromise” to get the project moving ahead. Hobson also suggested the city consider developing the five-acre park portion of the plan ahead of time, something he said would give developers more incentive and confidence to invest in one of the seven development sites that make up the project. Other councillors also said they thought that a good idea.

Central Green was unanimously approved by council in September, 2008 and staff have been working since then preparing a detailed concept plan in advance of site rezoning.

The city wants to use a comprehensive development zone, along the same lines as the CD-21 zone proposed for four downtown city blocks.

The 13-acre site, once the school grounds for Kelowna Secondary School, is the largest intact parcel of land in the downtown core and was appraised at $17 million in 2008. Eight acres of the site will be developed using a request for proposal process.

Edstrom said the financial analysis of the plan revealed the discrepancies they say would make the project unviable, without substantial investment of tax dollars by the city.

Coun. Michele Rule was the main dissenter, voting against the lower targets. “I think we’re making a mistake by watering this down,” she said.

john@kelowna.com

250-575-0521

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4 Responses to “Council waters down Central Green affordable housing, environmental targets”

  1. John Zeger says:
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    I’m surprised that this article doesn’t mention that Councillor Charlie Hodge was the only one who voted against the staff proposal as he thought it was insufficiently stringent. Furthermore, it also wasn’t reported that Angela Reid said she would bite the bullet on this one but push for stronger requirements in the future. Manana, Angela, manana.

    If Kelowna city council cannot require that developers meet the standards of LEED Gold and 20% affordable housing in its showcase Central Green project, where is the hope for projects elsewhere in the city? There is none. Kelowna continues to move towards both environmental and social unsustainability quicker than one can say Green Party.

  2. FYEO says:
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    “Affordable Housing” functions on disposable income and cost. Mandating higher construction costs (LEEDS Gold) is counter productive. If the City wants affordable housing then the City should participate with policies that actually promote the means to an end. The City needs consider discounting the value of its land for these projects, ease ridiculous building standards, back off on DCC’s; otherwise nobody is going to come to your party when the lots are released. BTW, this market already has plenty of affordable housing, they’re called MHP’s.

  3. Phil says:
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    I have to agree with John that this “watering down” seems to be rather backwards where right now we talk about the desperate need of Low Income housing as well as the City of Kelowna wants to be this “Green and Beautiful” City.

    I guess we want to be green and think about low income housing… when its convenient.

  4. John Zeger says:
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    In response to FYEO, just lifting most restrictions on housing development will not produce more affordable housing in the city as developers will continue to produce what is most profitable for them to sell, and housing at affordable prices simply isn’t. The only way to get them to turn out affordable housing in an meaningful quantity is to mandate that a certain percentage of all units in a project be sold at affordable prices. That’s called “inclusionary housing” and the practice is widely used in the U.S.

    Also we cannot sacrifice our environmental standards to increase the quantity of housing units on the market otherwise before too long we won’t have a sustainable planet to live on.

    Regarding MHPs, if you mean mobile home parks, many are disappearing from the city as developers find it more profitable to build higher density projects on the land they occupy. For details contact Phil Milroy.

    Please continue discussion on the forum: link

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