COLUMN: Nelson deserves a full range of housing options

Mayor Deb Kozak on design processes, Nelson Commons, short term rentals, and more.

Council recently received a report from Modus Consulting on future plans for the Railtown district.

In the last few months, the consultants met with a cross-section of the community to renew the vibrancy and realize the potential of this neighbourhood. This planning work is a continuation of the projects identified in the Downtown Waterfront Master Plan.

The Railtown plan includes concepts for work/live spaces, park improvements, and business development that will enhance the industrial nature of this area.

Partnerships will be a key piece in realizing this vision over time. Council will be considering first steps in our upcoming budget meetings.

A separate planning piece on urban design for the downtown core has also been undertaken in the last couple of months.

The last revitalization of downtown Nelson took place in the 1980s. The intention of this process is to improve amenities while maintaining the character and strong characteristics that make Nelson’s downtown the heart of the community. Consultants have focused on public spaces, parking, signage, public washrooms and lighting. A complete plan will be presented early in the new year.

It is exciting to see people move into their new homes at the recently completed Nelson Commons project. Three of these units have been offered at 25 per cent below market value.

Council completed discussions on policy that will govern future sales of these units to maintain affordability over time.

Housing affordability rates high on everyone’s mind these days and there is some criticism that these units do not fit those criteria.

Healthy communities need a full spectrum of housing options.

Social housing and market housing are a part of this spectrum. The Commons development is the first of its kind in Nelson to incorporate affordable units in its design and these units are in the range of people with modest incomes. Past developments have paid a per door fee to the city’s housing committee and have provided amenities that enhance neighbourhoods.

Including affordable units in future is an exciting prospect and another possibility when new projects come forward.

With a zero vacancy rate in long-term rentals, the housing shortage has risen to the fore. Council hopes to relieve some of that pressure with a new bylaw overseeing short-term accommodations.

It’s recognized that vacation rentals are part of the sharing economy and play a role in tourism. It’s balance that we aim to achieve. One of the requirements stipulates that a short-term rental property must be your primary residence.

It discourages property speculation and encourages long-term rentals. It also protects the integrity of our neighbourhoods.

Council has also heard from property owners who struggle with the Landlord Tenancy Act. We met with Ministers at our recent UBCM convention to identify these issues and to ask for improvements to the Act.

The Nelson and Area Economic Development Partnership just completed a feasibility study to consider a Nelson Innovation Centre concept.

Installing broadband was the first step in creating infrastructure that brings Nelson into the intelligent community network.

The next step is to attract the people working in the knowledge sector. Living in spectacular surroundings and being able to work virtually anywhere is within reach here.

You’ll be hearing more about these ideas over the coming months.

 

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