Council mulls zoning changes to ease housing woes

by LAURA KEIL

The Village of Valemount has some housing solutions at its fingertips according to the Village’s Housing Committee. They brought forward a set of recommendations last week at the regular meeting Oct 10th. The zoning bylaw proposals fall in three areas.

The committee suggests decreasing the minimum parcel size for a single family dwelling (R1 zoning) from the current 700 m2 (7,534.74 sq ft) to 370 m2 (3,982.65 sq ft).

The smaller size would bring the Village closer to other resort communities like Fernie (500 m2) and Nelson (370 m2). “Smaller lot size requirements in Valemount will encourage the creation of more lots and higher density in new subdivisions,” the report reads. “The minimum parcel area in Valemount will not restrict developers to create large lot sizes if they wish to do so or if they need to accommodate market demands.”

The committee also recommends decreasing the minimum floor area for new homes. Right now, home builders must adhere to a footprint of at least 93 m2 (1,000 sq ft).

The report says the committee spoke to staff in Valemount, Nelson and Fernie, and found no reason for restricting the floor area to 1,000 sq ft. “New constructions will have to meet building codes and inspection requirements, irrespective of size,” the report reads. In Nelson, the minimum floor area for single family dwelling is 30 m2 (323 sq ft). No minimum floor area for single family dwelling is set in Fernie.

The committee also suggests allowing multiple dwelling units above commercial spaces (currently just one unit per parcel). The Valemount Home Hardware building already has several apartments above the store, despite being zoned C1. “This is a good model,” the report reads.

The Housing committee has been meeting since February 2017, collecting data on local housing availability, discussing strategic planning, looking at funding for projects and examining zoning and bylaws.

A study on local housing published in January 2016 found that housing pressures were likely to mount due to more interest in the Valemount housing market. The report also analyzed data from Statistics Canada which showed a higher-than-average number of households were housing insecure. Some 60 households were likely to be in “core housing need” (paying 30-49 per cent of their income on housing); and and up to 35 households who were likely to be in “severe housing need” (paying more than 50 per cent of their income on housing – thus placing them at risk of homelessness).

The study made many recommendations, including zoning options to encourage affordable housing. The study is published on the Village of Valemount website.

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