The Regional District of Central Kootenay will soon hire someone to figure out what it can do to encourage affordable housing in rural areas.
The district has received a $25,000 provincial grant to put toward finding a consultant to do the work.
Planner Dana Hawkins says it will include “tangible actions and strategies” that address local housing needs and complements a housing needs assessment completed in 2020.
“The needs assessment tells you the what, and the action plan gets into the meat of how we can solve those issues and work toward affordable housing in our region,” she says.
Hawkins says that while some larger regional districts, including those around Nanaimo and Victoria, have tackled similar projects, in the Kootenays the work to date has mostly been completed by municipalities, including Nelson and Castlegar.
She says the plan will be tailored to the RDCK, taking into account “our rural nature, our topography, our lack of transportation, our small water providers.”
Hawkins says there are three main areas they expect the consultant to look into: regulatory/policy changes, process changes, and incentives.
She says that will likely include studying zoning bylaws and official community plans to see how RDCK policies can be more supportive of affordable housing, or taking advantage of tools in the Local Government Act that they are not presently using.
She adds that there may be ways they can make it easier, quicker, or less expensive for people to build affordable housing by adjusting their internal processes. Finally, they may able to provide direct incentives to encourage housing.
While Hawkins says the plan may result in some useful lessons for municipalities, unlike the needs assessment, this document will be focused on rural electoral areas.
A request is out for consultants and they hope to have one picked in June to get the project rolling. Based on the grant requirements, it has to wrap up by April 2023.