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RDCK plan outlines ways to increase rural housing

A report on encouraging more affordable housing in rural areas of the Regional District of Central Kootenay suggests creating a land bank of potential building sites, among other recommendations.

The board recently adopted the housing action plan, prepared by a consultant, which builds on a 2020 housing needs assessment that looked at the population that needs housing.

RDCK planner Stephanie Johnson says the first report answered the who and the latest document, in the works for about a year, looks at the how.

She says they have already acted on some of the recommendations by holding forums in the Creston Valley with non-profit housing providers and are looking at doing another with Slocan Valley providers.

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They are also working with the City of Nelson and surrounding electoral areas E and F at looking at a variety of models to create more workforce housing.

“We’d also be looking at working with member municipalities on where we could grow efficiently in some surrounding areas where we have access to both water and sewer servicing,” she said.

“That type of infrastructure is one of the greatest limitations in our rural areas for rural development.”

While they don’t intend to become housing developers themselves, she said the plan calls for identifying and acquiring land for affordable housing where they could work with a non-profit provider or developer.

“Because those folks are experts in construction and building housing, the local government would come to the table with land and secure that tenure over time to ensure any new development on that parcel would be affordable in perpetuity,” she said.

The report’s action items apply to the entire region. Johnson said the RDCK planning department will put forward a work plan and the board will identify which items they want to prioritize.

However, they have already trying to team up with non-profit housing providers and municipalities. “We’re not waiting to work on the lower-hanging fruit we can start working on immediately,” she said.

While the plan doesn’t set specific housing targets, she said they would like to see more diverse options, as the 2021 census showed the local population is aging.

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