As Kelowna grows (and grows, and grows), planners have a variety of choices of where to put everyone. Today, there’s people who commute every day from as far away as Armstrong to the North and Penticton to the South. When Kelowna experiences population booms we’ve seen what happened in the past….
RU7 Zoning in Kelowna
Kettle Valley was once thought of as being way too far out of town but today it’s twice as big as it once was and they continue building up the hillside. If you haven’t been up there in the past two years you won’t recognize it. They’re one save-on-foods and RBC away from being a completely legit suburb connected to the city. Same goes for Wilden. Remember the Glenmore Highlands? Not long ago it used to be a place for peaceful trail running with your dog out in the middle of nowhere but nowadays there are a thousand homes built close enough to the city center that a commuter can still drive home for lunch.
Downtown has changed with more people living and working there. The cultural district has had a significant impact on the livability in the downtown core as well as the lakefront walk from the bridge all the way to Paul’s Tomb. There are issues on the negative side of the ledger. The lower parts of Leon and Lawrence are still sketchy, City Park at night isn’t like City Park during the day and no one likes paying for parking. All in all though, people who live and visit here seem to love this part of town.
You don’t need to be an expert on Canadian demographics to know that more people will be coming here as baby boomers continue to age. The ones who’ve moved here already tend to be those who have played all their financial cards right and retired early. The ones on track to retire when they’re supposed to aren’t here yet and we need to make room for them somehow. We can build up or we can build out. Or, we can rezone what we already have and create more density. Just take a look at a map of Canada. If you’re retiring from Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan or BC’s north, where can you go? Unless you have family you want to be near your choices if short winters are important to you are few. Southern Vancouver Island and Vancouver’s lower mainland is priced too high for sane people. Perhaps Parksville and Qualicum are considerations but who wants to live on an island? That leaves the Okanagan. Sure, we compete with Oliver, Salmon Arm and everywhere in between but all in all, most people prefer Kelowna. We have an airport, a university and our hospital delivers more services than those places. There are just way more things to do here.
RU7 Creates More Density
The RU7 zoning changes immediately create more density. About 400-450 lots on both sides of highway 97 have seen their zoning change from RU6 to RU7. This means if a current homeowner has lane access and at least 50 feet of frontage they will now be able to have four homes on their lot instead of two. It’s a little more complicated than that but not a lot more complicated. The long-term result will be more people living and working closer to the city center creating a more dynamic urban core. Yes, making a left turn onto Richter from just about anywhere will be a bit more challenging but I think it’s going to result in an even better city. It would certainly be a welcome addition to see a school in the North end. Maybe even a second bridge crossing. In theory, creating density ought to ease pressure on house prices but no signs of that happening.
Current homeowners who live in an older home on an RU7 lot have seen their house values increase substantially overnight. We’re still not sure what a single unit will sell for on a four unit building lot on what used to be a RU6 lot but I imagine it will be in the $500,000 to $550,000 range per unit. This seems about right. I have a feeling we won’t be able to build them fast enough.