In an effort to address the housing crisis, the provincial government has passed new laws around housing development that city officials – including some in Maple Ridge – are critical of.
The BC NDP reworked provincial housing policy with new bills that will allow four housing units on standard single-family lots, and up to six units on larger lots close to transit stops. There will be no need for a rezoning process at city hall. The government’s goal is to allow for more townhomes, triplexes and laneway homes, built fast.
The new laws will also put an end to public hearings for project that fit into official community plans. The province will require cities to pre-zone their land in an up-front planning process. Fees charged to developers will be standardized.
Judy Dueck, the longest serving city councillor in Maple Ridge, said municipalities are going to need senior government funding to provide infrastructure as new units are built.
“I’m not really warm to it,” she said of Bill 44.
Roads, water and sewer services are all obvious considerations, and the former school district trustee and employee says the education system will be challenged to keep up with rapid growth.
“Schools, for me, is one of the biggest (issues),” Dueck said.
“I’m not sure how the province is going to support cities,” she siad.
She said the city’s building department and staff will see challenging times ahead. Past councils, advised by staff, have spent hours mapping out future development with the official community plan (OCP), as well as area plans that considered development in different neighbourhoods.
“Does that All just get pushed aside, and doesn’t matter anymore?” she asked.
Developers must always consider factors such as the height of their buildings. Architectural “form and character,” and whether it clashes with existing buildings, have traditionally been important considerations. However, city hall will seemingly be losing its authority over.
“It takes our authority away,” said Dueck. “One-size-fits-all never works.”
“I applaud them for trying to do something for more housing,” said Dueck. “Everyone agrees we have a housing crisis, but is this the way to solve it?”
Mayor Dan Ruimy said he wants to see more detail before offering damning opinions of the new laws, and said city hall staff will be preparing reports for council.
His first reaction was concern about infrastructure upgrades.
“That is one of the challenges – a lot of municipalities are behind on infrastructure, including ours,” said Ruimy. “We’re all concerned about infrastructure, and how we’re going to move forward.”
He said this council, just over a year in office, has taken steps to add densification in the city, and also to hasten the time it takes developers to get their projects approved by city hall.
The city has also applied for funding through the federal housing accelerator fund, to provides incentive funding for increasing the housing supply.
“We know we’re in a housing crisis, and we need to address that,” said Ruimy
The province has estimated that the changes could see 130,000 new small-scale, multi-unit homes over the next 10 years.
“One of the biggest challenges facing people in British Columbia is finding a decent place to live that they can afford,” said Premier David Eby. “That’s why our government is taking action. Through the new laws we passed, we’re making sure homes are built faster and that homes are used for people, not speculators or investors.”