By Laura Keil
The Regional District of Fraser-Fort George is taking a big step towards affordable housing, after voting to abolish the minimum first-storey floor area of dwellings in residential, commercial, industrial and institutional zones of the regional district. The vote now goes to the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure for final approval.
It’s been several years that RDFFG Area H Rep Dannielle Alan has been pushing for the change.
“I asked staff if there was a reason for the minimum, and they couldn’t find one. It was just the way it had always been done.”
Many other regional districts in B.C. don’t have floor area minimums, Alan said. If approved, builders would simply follow the BC Building Code, rather than have an extra layer of regulation.
For some, it’s not just a matter of convenience, but the ability to put down roots.
“It’s heartbreaking when people who are from the valley are trying to return home to the valley to raise their family and don’t have a place to live. Or doctors or administrative officers.”
She says it’s also about businesses being able to house their staff and people being able to build a life here in the Robson Valley.
“We want them to help build community.”
Alan sees the possibility of having tiny house neighbourhoods, allowing more independent living within a strata-type ownership structure. The homes she’s referring to would need a foundation and would not include tiny homes on wheels.
“I’d love to see a pocket neighbourhood for seniors who can support each other.”
While this idea isn’t on the books yet, she says the next step will be to look at how the zoning bylaws are serving residents in today’s world. It’s been decades since the Official Community Plans for this region were updated—16 years for the Canoe Upstream (Robson-Valemount area) and 21 years for the Canoe Downstream (Dome Creek-Croydon area).
Under the district’s current regulations (voted out) the first floor of a home has been required to be a minimum of 40 sq. metres (430.5 sq. feet) , and up to 85 sq. metres (915 sq. feet) depending on the zoning. If approved, the changes would eliminate the minimum. Houses would still have to meet the requirements in the B.C. Building Code which says the smallest dwelling unit, incorporating all floors, can be no less than 30m2