Kelowna city council rejects highrise agreement, says proposed rent is unaffordable

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Kelowna city council rejects highrise agreement
Kelowna city council rejects highrise agreement – Nov 23, 2022

In a quick word, no.

That was Kelowna’s city council’s answer Monday to a highrise developer who wanted to charge rent prices for small apartments well above market rates.

Slated to be built on public land, 10 per cent of the proposed 25-storey highrise at 350 Doyle Ave. will feature affordable apartments (26 of 259 units).

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However, council was told that the affordable apartments would only be studio suites, which would be charged $2,050 a month, a figure based on a median income of $82,000.

City council quickly and unanimously rejected the proposal on Monday, saying $2,050 a month for a studio suite was anything but affordable.

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“In looking through this particular agreement that has been put forward, and dealing with housing income of $80,000 and establishing fixed monthly rent of $2,000 as affordable housing, I believe that this agreement does not fit within the means of looking at establishing affordable housing within this community,” said Mayor Tom Dyas.

“We had a presentation just last week from someone else and the median household income that was used was more in the range of a $40,000-mark. And the rent was set somewhere in the range of $1,000 to $1,100.”

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Kelowna’s mayor calling a citizen group’s vision for downtown Kelowna unrealistic

Dyas continued, saying paying around $1,000 a month “is more in the means” for someone living in a studio suite in Kelowna.

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Other councillors piled on following Dyas’ comments.

Coun. Luke Stack, who noted Kelowna has a shortage of rental units, said studio units can be found online for much cheaper than $2,000 a month – more like $1,300 to $1,400 a month.

“This agreement says they have to rent them, potentially, up to $700 (a month) more than the market rate today,” said Stack. “So I’m just having a hard time squaring that with what’s making this affordable or attainable. It actually seems to be a very generous interpretation of what’s affordable.”

Click to play video: 'Kelowna highrise project rejected by city council'
Kelowna highrise project rejected by city council

“When I read this report to see that a studio (apartment) is considering an $82,000-household-income, that seems like a stretch to me,” said Coun. Loyal Wooldridge

“In the agreement, they could be charged for parking over and on top of that,” adding the proposal wanted the affordable housing option to be applicable for just 10 years,” Coun. Ron Cannan said. He’d like to see the affordable housing option to be in perpetuity, given that it’s public, not private, land.

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Coun. Mohini Singh says the proposal seemed disingenuous.

“Neither is it affordable nor is it attainable. It’s a small little unit for over $2000 a month. I appreciate the fact that the applicant is offering rental downtown which we need but this is too much for too little,” Singh said.

As the development is slated on public land which is the site of the former Kelowna RCMP detachment, council wants the final decision to be one that benefits all residents.

“It’s not private land, this is taxpayer-owned land, it belongs to the City of Kelowna. So in fact offering it for 10 years is also too little. It has to be for as long as the lease exists,” said Singh.

The city said council voted unanimously not to sign the agreement, and the developer must come back with a revised agreement.

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Two highrises approved in downtown Kelowna

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