Courtenay council

Courtenay council

Courtenay council defers residential building application

Courtenay council has asked City staff for more information before considering a development permit for a six-storey, 50-unit residential building at 1600 Riverside Lane, bordering 17th Street and the Courtenay Riverway Trail.

A development permit had been approved for a single-storey building at the site in 2017, but the project did not proceed. The new project requires variances to parking, height, building setback, landscape buffer requirements and a 30-metre river setback.

The proprietors, appearing before council Nov. 15, said the price point for a studio suite would range from $895 to $925 a month. Coun. David Frisch said this rate is “pretty reasonable” but questioned if there’s a willingness to consider rent-geared-to-income for some of the units.

Rent for a one bedroom would range from $1,295 to $1,595 per month. Coun. Wendy Morin noted that a tenant would need to earn more than $25 an hour to fall within a 30 per cent of income-to-rent threshold. She said $1,137 would meet the threshold.

“If we look at the housing needs assessment, it’s not really addressing those recommendations,” Morin said.

Applicant Rick Browning said there are more than 100 people on the waiting list to rent a suite. Most are wanting a studio.

“I think that our mix is the right mix for the location,” said Browning, noting the target market is people who can walk or cycle to work. “The market is reacting appropriately…These buildings get more expensive every year. We had a 25 per cent increase in construction costs in the last 12 months.”

But Morin said minimum wage earners cannot afford these rents.

Coun. Doug Hillian feels the rents are reasonable, and that the proposal speaks to density, and to modifying the skyline.

“I believe the more rental accommodation we have, the more likely it is that we will get affordability,” Hillian said. “We can’t rely on private developers to build social housing, unless we subsidize them to the extent that they’re able to do that.”

While he thinks the proposal is heading in the right direction, Frisch said he will continue to advocate for the top issue of affordable housing. He said five units at 30 per cent below market value, for instance, would translate into $18,000 a year.

“It seems like a small amenity to contribute so that we can all move forward knowing that we’re doing the best for this community,” Frisch said.

Hillian had moved an option to issue the permit, which Manno Theos and Mayor Bob Wells supported. However, Frisch, Morin, Melanie McCollum and Will Cole-Hamilton opposed the motion. Following a procedural review, council decided to refer the matter back to staff and revisit the application at a future date.

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