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Rental-only zoning still a distant idea for Richmond

At a housing event in Richmond last week, panelists discussed what it would look like to implement rental-only zones in cities.
Housing panelists discuss rental only zoning at a BCNPHA event. Photo: Submitted

As the province continues to find creative ways to address its housing crisis, some power may be given to cities to boost rental stocks through rental-only zoning.


In April, legislation was introduced to allow cities to create rental-only zones and to ensure existing rentals can’t be redeveloped for another use. If approved, the City of Richmond would need to consider how and if rental-only zoning would be an effective way to relieve some of the housing pressure in the community.


“We’re waiting to see what exactly happens with (the bill),” said Barry Konkin, manager of policy planning for the City of Richmond.


“This is an interesting opportunity for municipalities across the’s very new. It’s not included at this stage in our work but we are reviewing it as we speak.”


Last week, at a one-day Regional Education, Networking & Tradeshow (RENT) hosted by the BC Non-Profit Housing Association, a lunchtime panel discussed whether rental-only zoning could bring housing affordability to cities and what challenges they might face. For Noha Sedky, a community planner for CitySpaces who spoke on the panel, there would be significant burden on city councils for rental-only zones to be successful.


“The biggest risk is going to be that lobby and that pressure on council that prevents it from going ahead because that can be quite significant,” Sedky said during the panel.


“I’m sure there’s going to be a lot of pushback from the development community,” she said, adding that there would need to be “champions on council and leadership on the planning departments” for rental-only zoning to be implemented successfully.


To appease developers, Sedky said it might be necessary to “think of an incentive approach to support or facilitate it, but that’s going to differ from one place to another.”


For Selina Robinson, provincial housing minister, it’s those local governments who know what their city needs.


“(They’re) are on the front lines of the housing crisis, so they’re well positioned to guide the right types of housing to meet the needs of their residents,” said Robinson in a press release.


Even so, Konkin said it’s too early to tell what rental-only zoning could look like in Richmond.


“We would have to look at it very carefully, explore any negative implications or any positives for the community,” he said. “We would work closely with industry, with the public and any interested parties to see if it actually had any opportunity to work.”


Konkin said that the city’s market rental strategy, which will be heading to council this summer, may provide insight into how council would handle a rental-only zoning option with developers.


“To get rental housing, there’s a couple of different approaches that you can take, one being incentive-based, one being mandatory. Council will give us their direction hopefully this summer in which approach they want to take,” he said. “That would likely be applicable to using this kind of zoning.


“It’s one thing to say ‘do it,’ but developers clearly have concerns in the implications.”