Rental Building Boom in Kelowna

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Kelowna is finally getting some much needed rental housing. 

 

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May is Asian Heritage Month in Kelowna

We celebrated the opening of Asian Heritage Month in Kelowna last night at a celebration at the Okanagan College. The focus this year is on Japan. Featured performances by Alcin Ryuzen Ramos, Yaabiko Taiko and Sensei Chris Taneda (Karate). Pictured above are the many children in attendance singing along with Alcvin.

2017 Asian Heritage 

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Mission Creek Restoration Award

2017 Mission Creek Restoration pic

Congratulations to Todd Cashin, of the City of Kelowna, for being recognized by his peers for the Mission Creek Restoration Project. This multi-partnership team is a great example of making a significant environmental improvement to this valued creek in Kelowna. The award is from the "Species and Ecosystems at Risk Local Government Working Group."  In this picture Todd is being recognized by Deputy Mayor Mohinni Singh and all of Kelowna City Council. 

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Council - Midterm check-in

Kelowna City Council is at the mid point in its four year term. This editorial was posted by Alistair Waters of the Capital News

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Apple Valley Building 3 approved

The Society is Hope is pleased to announce that the Provincial Government has funded the developemnt of building 3 under the Federal Infrastructure Program. This project will add 47 new units of senior rental housing to Kelowna. It will complete the Apple Valley complex. Construction will begin in Spring 2017 and complete in Spring 2018. 

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School Tours City Hall

Kelowna Christian School

Each Year the City offers Schools the opportunity to conduct tours of City Hall. Typically these tours consist of grade 3 children. They get an opportunity to learn about municipal government and the job it does on their behalf. I have been doing these tours for many years. I always enjoy the interaction with the children. They often bring prepared questions to challenge us! The children really enjoy meeting the Mayor on their visit. In this picture the children are learning about the "Spririt of Kelowna" wall. This wall celebrates Kelowna's 100th birthday which took place in 1905.

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UBCM Victoria

2016 Luke Empress

I attended the annual meeting of the Union of BC Muncipalities (UBCM) in Victoria in September. This is the annual gathering of Mayors and Council members from the Province of BC. This was the most productive UBCM meeting I have attended. The week was packed with meetings with Provincial Cabinet Ministers. I attended many workshops as well. Councillors took a close look at Air B&B, and the Provincial shortage of rental housing. (This shortage is everywhere in BC - not just Kelowna) I found myself running from meeting to meeting to get it all in. (This picture of me in front of the Empress and Victoria Conference Centre - where the meetings took place. The weather was beautiful for September.)

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Protect Farmland

Council takes a stand

It won't be business as usual for a long-established Kelowna nursery and landscaping company.

Neway Landscape and Irrigation Ltd. has been in business since 2003, leasing property at 3740 Casorso Road. However, for several years, it has been a non-conforming farm use.

The property in question is on ALR lands.

The company and its agents came to council Monday seeking approval to continue operating as usual while it slowly moved to make the operation fully conform.

The timeline was 2018.

"I've been in the nursery business for 20 years and I'd like to continue," the owner told council.

"My future, my staff's future could be at stake. I'm trying to see if we could get some support."

Council said no, partly because it is within the Benvoulin corridor, an area council says is full of non-conforming uses, and one which it has asked staff to clean up.

"Really, what we see before us today is an outcome of the direction we gave to staff," said Coun. Luke Stack in leading the charge against the application.

"I think Neway Landscaping is a good company, and I wish them every success in their landscaping construction and irrigation business, but I can't believe that is the right application to be used on this fine farmland."

Stack said the business is primarily a construction business, and should be operating from an industrial site.

"Today, I think, provides council with an opportunity to send a strong, united, firm but fair message, that we can't allow our quality farmland to be slowly converted to commercial, non-farm uses.

"The application on the table before us is for non-farm use. That's what we are being asked, not to help make this a better farm."

While most did struggle with the decision, they agreed not to recommend the application.

"This is a difficult one, and usually, I try to find any way possible to let farming opportunities to remain," said Coun. Charlie Hodge.

"But about 40 per cent of this property is set towards landscaping and irrigation, which isn't allowed. As much as I appreciate there has been a lot of communication with staff, I have to support Coun. Stack on the motion. I think for the sake of farmland, we have to take a stance to protect it."

Mayor Colin Basran commended the owner of the company and understood it was an emotional issue, but stated council has to do what's right for the agricultural community.

"I recognize you are trying to take some measures to bring it up to compliance by planting more nursery stock and make it more of a farm venture," said Basran.

"But this to me is clearly what we are trying to stop in our community."

The mayor urged the owner to continue to work with the city is hopes of eventually being able to bring the property into compliance.

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Pleasantvale Grand Opening

Premier Christy Clark, MP Stephen Fuhr and Mayor Colin Basran cut the ribbon at Pleasantvale on 13th, 2016. It was a perfect day of celebration for a job well done. The residents had an opportunity to mingle with the dignataries. The Society of Hope staff and their partners, BC Housing, Rotary Club of Kelowna and the City of Kelowna had a chance to reflect on the completion of a massive undertaking. Transferring 50 residents from the old site to the new apartments and constructing 20 new townhome units. The entire process took 6 years from early planning to completion. This was a complex project that required many consultants, including Anne Stack, Juliet Anderton, Kane Bentsen, and Norr Architecture. All of us worked hard to get this project off the ground - my deep appreciation to all!  

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Pleasantvale Affordable Housing Grand Opening

2016 Premier Pleasantvale Opening

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Farm to Flight

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Sam Samaddar launches the Farm to Flight program at Kelowna International Airport July 6, 2016

Those looking to take a taste of the Okanagan abroad will now have the opportunity to take in-season fruit on flights leaving from Kelowna International airport.

YLW’s Farm to Flight program allows Kelowna residents to show off the agricultural pride of the Okanagan to those across Canada, and lets tourists visiting the bountiful valley take their favourite tastes home with them.

The program was launched Wednesday in the departure lounge gift shop at the airport, where travellers can now purchase Okanagan cherries to take on their flight.

“Not only will Farm to Flight bring new opportunity and national reach for local farmers but it’ll bring awareness of Kelowna to tourist hubs all over the country,” said Kelowna city councillor Mohini Singh.

While cherries are the only fruit currently offered, peaches, nectarines, apples and pears will be offered as they come into season.

The fruit is supplied by De Simone Farms Ltd., a fruit grower and packer in Kelowna.

Pierre De Simone says while he doesn’t expect to see a huge bump in sales right off the bat, he has high hopes for the program's future.

“It’s going to take the passenger coming back a second time, and knowing that it was there,” he said. “It’s going to take a cycle of people coming through and telling their friends.

“I think it’s going to step up significantly as we go along.”

Two pound boxes of cherries are being sold for $9.95, while smaller cups are going for $3.95.

Prices have yet to be set for the other fruits, as it will largely be determined by agricultural conditions, but Ed Wong, general manager of Skyway at YLW, says there could be a premium on the price to ensure food safety when crossing provincial borders.

“There’s a certain food safe issue that I have to make sure that the customers get, which is ensuring the food goes through a processor,” Wong said. “Once the food goes through a processor it’s sanitized and safe and it goes by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency standards.”

The larger fruit will be sold in special briefcase-style boxes that fit underneath a plane’s seat, while protecting easily-bruised fruit. (Exerpt from Castanet News)

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Bike to Work and School Week - 2016

Its Bike to Work and School week again - and the sun is shining! Kicking off the event at Landmark square in Kelowna is L-R: Mayor Colin Basran, Councillor Tracy Gray; Councillor Ryan Donn; and Councillor Luke Stack. Looking over my shoulder you will see our team leader at City Hall Jan Johnston. She is the organizer of our team "the Peddle Pushers." Thanks Jan!! (She rides her bike to work every day and inspires us all) 

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Hybrids continue to get a brake on parking

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Ogopogo Saved

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Chamber of Commerce Lunch with the Minister of National Defence

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Harjit Singh Sajjan has served Canada and his community as both a soldier and a police officer. He continues his service to Canada as the Member of Parliament for Vancouver South and as Minister of National Defence. I had the honor of having lunch with the Minister when he was in Kelowna to attend a Chamber of Commerce meeting.

Harjit is a retired Lieutenant-Colonel in the Canadian Armed Forces and a combat veteran. He was deployed to Bosnia-Herzegovina and served three separate deployments to Kandahar, Afghanistan. Harjit has received numerous recognitions for his service, including the Meritorious Service Medal for reducing the Taliban’s influence in Kandahar Province. He is also a recipient of the Order of Military Merit, one of the military’s highest recognitions. Harjit also served as an Aide-de-Camp to the Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia.

Harjit was a police officer with the Vancouver Police Department for 11 years. He completed his last assignment as a Detective-Constable with the Gang Crime Unit specializing in organized crime. He proudly tackled gang violence and drug crimes in Vancouver. Harjit is also a human security specialist, and has lectured to a wide audience in both Canada and the United States.

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Honouring Ben Lee

Hundreds gathered in Ben Lee Park in Rutland on Saturday March 26th to celebrate the life of Ben Lee. Ben had a full career teaching highschool as well as he served as a Kelowna City Councillor for 23 years. He had a quiet, friendly way of doing his work. He also founded the Multicultural Society and served as its President. He brought us all closer together and helped us learn to appreciate each culture's unique characteristics. Simply put, Ben was an effective leader. Personally, I am pleased we will always have Ben Lee Park to remember his great contribution to our City. Condolences to his family for their loss.  This picture was taken at Ben Lee Park during the farewell celebration of Ben's Life. 

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Council Endorses New Civic Precinct Plan

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Future vision for Kelowna's Civic Block area endorsed by council

Kelowna Capital News

By Alistair Waters

March 15, 2016

Kelowna's new plan for the possible future development of what it calls its Civic Block—an area of downtown bordered by Queensway, Clement, Ellis and Okanagan Lake—says the land currently housing the soon-to-be replaced RCMP detachment should be redeveloped with mixed use housing in a building as tall as 13 storeys high.

The recommendation is just one of a series in the proposed future land-use vision endorsed by city council Monday.

In addition to redeveloping the RCMP detachment site—being replaced by a larger, new police services building on Clement Avenue in the city's North End—other projects envisioned in the short-term (five to 10 years) include:

• Extending the existing Art Walk that runs between Cawston Avenue and the Library Parkade all the way to Queensway.

• Creating a civic Plaza on the walkway at the end of Smith Avenue.

• Refreshing the Bennett Clock Memorial on Queensway.

• Enhancing pedestrian and cycle access throughout the area.

Longer term possibilities (10-25 years) include:

• A new performing arts centre to replace the existing Kelowna Community Theatre.

• Multi-storey mixed-use development on parts of the Prospera Place parking lot.

• Redevelopment of the Memorial Arena for community use, possibly as the new home for the Kelowna Heritage Museum.

• Redevelopment of the existing museum site at Ellis and Queensway.

• Mixed-use development on the site of the existing health unit on Ellis Street.

• Infill development on Cawston Avenue.

• A new civic building on the existing city hall parking lot.

The plan envisions up to 230 affordable housing units, 550 other housing units, an additional 75,000-square feet of commercial space and another 5.5 hectares of land for future civic use.

It would also give new mixed-use developments in the area a break on parking requirements. However, no new parkades would be built in the area, which already has the soon-to-be expanded library parkade and the new parkade beside Memorial Arena that is currently under construction.

For the most part, council members liked what they saw in the plan. Council voted to endorse it 5-2, with Couns. Brad Sieben and Charlie Hodge voting against. Couns. Tracy Gray and Gail Given were not at the meeting.

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Kelowna's Rental Challenge

 

City HomesRental housing construction is on the upswing in Kelowna.

(JOHN MCDONALD /InfoTel Multimedia)

December 02, 2015 - 10:30 AM

KELOWNA - The city has done a lot to encourge development of rental housing and there’s not too much more that can be done, except to let the incentives do their work and keep on pushing for more.

That’s the opinion of Luke Stack, a city councillor and also executive director of the Society of Hope, a non-profit dedicated to developing social housing in Kelowna.

“The position I take is that we should do everything we can to increase the rental housing supply, whether there is a good or bad market,” Stack says. “This is a popular place to live and there is going to be ongoing pressure."

Kelowna has been flirting with a near-crisis level of rental housing supply, a landlord’s market with a vacancy rate of one per cent last year. That has ticked up a bit to 1.5 per cent, according to the Canadian Mortage and Housing Corporation, but is still not in the two to four per cent range Stack considers optimal.

“Once you get in there, positive things start to happen, at least for renters,” Stack says. “Landlords start renovating their properties and they drop the rents to attract tenants.”

Tick up too high, though, and landlords will start losing money because of too many vacancies, driving some of them out of the market and reducing supply.

A balanced rental market, on the other hand, offers stability to landlords and has the added effect of addressing affordability, another area where Kelowna has problems, Stack adds.

The B.C. Non-Profit Housing Association’s rental housing index ranks Kelowna as being in crisis because of high rents that are forcing some tenants to spend as much as 50 per cent of their income on housing.

The city saw plans for more than 300 new purpose-built rental units begin development this year, the first time it has reached the goal council set in the 2012 housing strategy.

That stacks up to the 489 rental units constructed in the city between 2010 and 2014, just a third of the desired number despite a raft of incentives.

Developers of purpose built rental properties in Kelowna can apply for direct rental housing grants — the city gave out $286,000 worth of them for 2016 — as well 10-year property tax exemptions when the vacancy rate slips below three per cent.

In addition, developers of so-called micro-suites — suites less than 29 square metres — are eligible for developement cost charge exemptions.

Long range policy planner James Moore says the jump in rental housing construction is a sign that developers are finally returning to the multi-family housing market, after getting burned during the 2008 downturn.

“It takes more than just incentives. It takes a lot of time for confidence to build back up and I think we are seeing developers cautiously putting their feet back into the market,” Moore says.

While development didn’t stop during the intervening years, the focus was more on single-family residential and townhouses, Moore adds, in part because there is less risk in financing and building them as compared to large multi-family developments.

What’s also helping, Moore says, is that some bigger developers have jumped into the market, including Al Stober Construction, with a micro-suite development on Dickinson Avenue.

“We’re certainly hoping leaders of the industry will perceive the need and take the leap. Others will soon follow."

What remains to be seen is if the numbers hold up.

“It’s encouraging. It’s looking healthier than it has been in the recent past,” Moore says of early indications drawn from developer enquiries.

About the only thing the city hasn’t done is become a landlord itself. Both Stack and Moore say the city creating its own housing authority isn’t on the radar.

“That issue has been explored years ago by the housing committee. The consensus was not to pursue that as a role for the city,” Stack says. 

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Water is this Council's #1 Priority

Ron Seymour's editorial pretty much says it all....

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Kelowna Fire Department Fund Raiser

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The Kelowna Fire Department annual fundraising event raised $3,500 for burn victims. I was part of a "high-angle" rescue demonstrating the skill of the Fire Department in rescuing people from high angles. Councillor Tracy Gray was also rescued from a truck demonstrating the "Jaws of Life." It was a really interesting day and I was pleased to support the Fire Department and the Victims of burns.  

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