Following a nearly two-hour public hearing on Tuesday evening, Penticton city council approved a contentious multi-family housing development at 955 Timmins Street.
Radec Group, on behalf of Ryzak Holdings, proposed to build 148 apartments and 71 townhouse units on the 6.6-acre parcel of industrial land near the Penticton campus of Okanagan College.
The developer applied to have the land re-zoned from industrial to medium density multiple housing and amend the official community plan, which council approved in a 6-1 vote.
Joe Walters, CEO of Radec Group, took to the mic first, stating Penticton is facing a housing crisis in both the rental and starter home markets.
“When you’re going into a market like this that is tight and vacancy rates are at one per cent, it drives the price up, and the only way to combat that is for us to add more stock back to the rental market and more stock back to the for-sale market,” Walters said.
“If we don’t do something very quickly with what is happening, we are going to start losing people. A number of businesses have reached out to me and it is hard to hire people who can’t find a place to live.”
Neighbours and area business owners spoke both in favour and against the housing development proposal, with advocates noting Penticton’s dismal rental vacancy rate of less than one per cent and the desperate need for more affordable housing, while opponents cried foul over increased density and traffic congestion.
“The first impression of the proposal was shocking, because of the high density for such a small and narrow street,” said resident and business owner Stuart Bish.
“It seems the developer is insensitive to this impact and has attempted to cram as many living units as possible into its boundaries.”
“My concern is the density, which leads to the traffic,” said Doug Hill.
Neighbour Daryl Clarke spoke to the housing shortage creating a barrier to young people re-locating to the South Okanagan community.
“It’s going to be a loss of industrial land, and it’s unfortunate, but right now in this city we are undergoing a housing crisis, and one of the things we can do in this town is social engineering. We want to bring more young people into this town because we need them,” Clarke said.
Diane Kereluk, executive director of the Penticton Chamber of Commerce, said business owners are struggling to recruit and retain workers.
“With the appeal of the Okanagan and larger cities, people with bigger assets are cashing in and moving here. What that is doing is creating a vacuum. The rich and getting richer and the poor are getting poorer, and the middle-class aren’t able to move here. We need skilled employees,” Kereluk said.
Prior to the public hearing, Okanagan College and the Okanagan College Students’ Union spoke out in favour of the development, saying affordable housing options near the Penticton campus will help attract domestic and international students.
The city says the proponent still needs a development permit, to contribute $110,000 for traffic-calming measures, and satisfy Ministry of Transportation conditions before the project can break ground.
Global Okanagan has reached out to the Radec Group for comment.