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Alternate housing needs to be allowed in city says councilor

Nelson Daily Editor
By Nelson Daily Editor
September 22nd, 2010

By Timothy Schafer, The Nelson Daily

One way to create more affordable housing for people in Nelson would be to allow alternate housing structures to be built in the Heritage City, says one city councilor.

Coun. Kim Charlesworth said the City could make the high cost of housing in Nelson affordable by embracing the growing movement that recognizes standard construction processes are unaffordable for a large part of the population.

People can’t afford to build under the merit of the BC Building Code, she said, and yet alternate housing construction that is more affordable would meet most engineering standards in terms of safety.

However, it’s just not meeting the current BC Building Code, Coun. Charlesworth said.

“Do we have the opportunity as a City, to allow alternate housing construction, or are we tied to what is in the BC Building Code?” she asked at a recent committee of the whole meeting.

She stated an area in the Lower Mainland was declared to be entirely for alternate housing construction and she wondered if the City of Nelson could do something similar.

Senior city planner Dave Wahn said if a housing construction does not fall within the terms of the BC Building Code it would have to have engineering stamps throughout, on the plans and signed off by an engineer at the end of the day, to ensure long-term safety.

“There are opportunities to go outside the BC Building Code, as long as you have that assurance in place,” he said. “Certainly we could look at that.”

“So, we as a City would have the opportunity to allow something like that, if we chose?” she asked in return.

Wahn said it could happen, if there was an engineer chosen who understood the liabilities involved.


Intensification, not densification

In order to create space for those homes, if the City decided to encourage densification — or intensification as it is now called — whether with secondary suites or infill housing, the Official Community Plan would have to be changed.

Senior city planner Dave Wahn said there is the capability for a duplex to be built on any city property, but that would be as dense as a builder could go in some areas.

“If we were to look at laneway or coach houses, we would be effectively doubling the density in some cases in some of the areas,” he said. “That would be a policy (directive) of council.”

A move towards intensification in some areas of the city would not be welcome according to the OCP. Wahn said the OCP speaks to densification as opposed to intensification, but it has specifically identified the majority of the city as fairly low density.

If the City were to look at intensification further, council would have to create amendments to the OCP for this to occur, in whatever areas were deemed to be suitable.


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