British Columbia

Tiny homes get big boost in housing-starved Kelowna

New bylaw changes will allow secondary, small, affordable units to be built on thousands of existing Kelowna single-family residential lots.

City passes zoning bylaw allowing small secondary homes to be built on existing residential single-family lots

Kelowna city council has passed bylaw changes to allow small affordable units to be built on thousands of downtown single-family residential lots. (Winston Szeto/CBC)

The City of Kelowna has big hopes for tiny homes.

City council has passed a bylaw allowing carriage houses and tiny homes to be built on thousands of existing single-family lots in Kelowna's downtown residential core. It follows months of city staff reviews and a public hearing Tuesday night.

Ryan Smith, the City of Kelowna's director of planning and development, calls it "gentle density" and a way to increase housing supply amid skyrocketing real estate prices and rental costs.

"[It's] really aimed at increasing the amount of density in neighbourhoods that were traditionally single family ... not doing it to a four or five-storey level, but doing it under the two-and-a-half storey level," Smith says.  

Some 570 legacy carriage homes already exist in Kelowna.  

Vancouver has allowed laneway housing since 2009 and eased the construction permit process in 2013.  Other major cities like Ottawa and Edmonton have amended bylaws to increase density with secondary housing.

While historically built to house staff or services on larger estates, carriage homes these days are popular with extended families looking for social closeness but residential independence and mortgage holders seeking rental income.

The city says bylaws regulating short term AirBnB-style rentals will still apply.

Kelowna businesses build on trend

Mike Roberts, a sales manager at Voyager RV, has added tiny homes to the usual offering of mobile homes and recreational vehicles.

"I see these being very popular," Roberts said. "This is a custom built home ... it's not an RV set up on your property. It's a true tiny home."  

Kelowna businesses are now selling prefabricated tiny homes. The city says new units can't be mobile, must be connected to concrete foundations, city utilities and meet building codes. (Submitted by Voyager RV)

The Abbotsford-built prefabricated homes cost between $130,000 and $160,000.

The median price on a single family home in Kelowna last month was $870,000, while apartment and condo units have been selling for $400,000.

The city says any new tiny homes must have a concrete foundation, water and sewage hookup, comply with all building codes and go through the usual permitting process.  

The new Kelowna bylaw limits construction size on RU1 and RU2 zoned lots.

Secondary homes can't exceed 960 square feet and a carriage house or tiny home can't be larger than 1,100 square feet depending on the unit's layout.

The City of Kelowna wants to change zoning on thousands of lots because it wants to provide more affordable housing, and one local business is trying to take advantage of that by building tiny homes. Daybreak's David French digs into whether or not this is a feasible form of housing in the community. 6:42

With files from CBC's Daybreak South, and David French.

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