There are more apartments coming for downtown Cumberland, but council wants to look at how to make sure there are rental units available. Photo by Mike Chouinard

There are more apartments coming for downtown Cumberland, but council wants to look at how to make sure there are rental units available. Photo by Mike Chouinard

Cumberland council calls for rental zoning options

Provincial amendments have only allowed communities to consider rental zoning since 2018

With few places to live, the Village of Cumberland wants to look at how to ensure more rental units are available.

At the council meeting on Nov. 23, Coun. Vickey Brown brought up the matter of potential rental zoning for the growing community, as she pointed to three new apartment buildings coming to the downtown core of Cumberland.

“Right now … the developers are telling us that they will be rentals,” she said. “We have nothing that assures that they will maintain rental status and not get sold.”

Brown pointed to the village’s housing assessment, saying there is a growing need for housing in Cumberland, and that she wants the village to use “all the tools” it has available to try to increase rental stock.

“We all know how hard it is to find rental accommodation in this community,” she said.

She, along with Coun. Jesse Ketler and Mayor Leslie Baird, had discussed the issue recently with the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing. A couple of other similarly sized Vancouver Island communities, Brown said, are also looking at the issue of rental zoning right now, specifically, Ladysmith and Port Hardy. One concern is around legal action over the matter of rentals and zoning.

Some options, she cited, for proposed rental zoning could be on a particular building, a block or larger area. She also suggested having staff talk to the developers of the buildings being erected downtown to see if they would be willing to add rental zoning to the sites.

Baird added there are other options being used that the village can consider.

“I think that there’s pros and cons to this, but it certainly is worth looking into,” she said.

The mayor said a major consideration at this time is to see how legal actions develop before the village takes any firm steps. She also said they should contact the other Island communities about their experiences.

“We don’t want to go into anything that’s going to cause us a lawsuit down the road,” she said.

Ketler talked about putting rental zoning into the zoning bylaw though the village would not necessarily have to use it, perhaps saving it for rezoning applications rather than applying it retroactively. She added that zoning does not have to be lot specific but could be applied with a portion of a building or a townhouse development.

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A backgrounder for council outlined provincial changes saying that prior to amendments to the Local Government Act and the Vancouver Charter in 2018, local governments had not been able to zone for rental housing. The changes now cover zones that permit multi-family residential use.

Village Sstaff will be now bringing back a report to council on options for residential tenure zoning.

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