Serving our community's diverse housing needs
Housing forms the basis of our neighbourhoods and plays an important role in health and overall well-being. It can provide a sense of identity, belonging and social support. The City is working to ensure that residents' housing needs are met in order to deliver on our community vision of a vibrant, inclusive community for all.
The City's role in housing
The City supports housing priorities through a number of actions that are within its regulatory scope. While the factors that affect housing demand are largely beyond the control of local government, the City supports our community's housing needs through:
- regulation that determines the location and type of housing that can be built
- policies and programs that encourage development of affordable and non-market housing options
- collaboration with government, non-profit and private sector partners to deliver much-needed housing supply
- advocacy on a range of housing issues at the provincial and federal government level
The Housing Wheelhouse
The City developed a new and innovative approach to understanding housing in our community called the Wheelhouse. Whereas housing categories and models have typically been linear, the Wheelhouse is circular and recognizes that people may move across categories of the Wheelhouse throughout their lives - and that home ownership is not the end goal for all residents.
Additionally, the Wheelhouse recognizes that our housing stock needs to reflect the diverse socioeconomic and demographic needs of Kelowna residents and should not focus exclusively on market housing. Finally, the Wheelhouse is an interdependent system in which people move among different housing forms, tenures and price points. As with any system, changes to one aspect of the system influence other parts of the system. The City's approach to housing looks at the system as a whole.
Imagine Kelowna is our community vision and its goals include: creating vibrant urban centres, healthy neighbourhoods for all, opportunities for everyone, and a fair and equitable community. Imagine Kelowna is used to help shape our priorities and provide the foundation for future strategies and projects such as the Official Community Plan (OCP). The OCP shapes how our City grows and provides a policy framework for Council by addressing issues such as housing, transportation, infrastructure, parks, economic development and the natural and social environment.
The Journey Home Strategy is Kelowna's 5-year plan to address homelessness with a focus on ensuring everyone has a place to call home. The goal is to ensure a coordinated and easy to access system of care for those in Kelowna who have lost, or are at risk of losing their home.
Healthy Housing Strategy is working to address the community’s most pressing housing issues. The five-year plan, endorsed by Council on June 25, 2018, was developed in alignment with the Journey Home Strategy to address Council’s top priorities of addressing homelessness and supporting housing diversity.
Several initiatives aimed at addressing housing needs within each segment of the housing Wheelhouse are underway.
Outdoor Overnight Sheltering | The City and its partners are are working to eliminate the need for anyone to shelter outside through the Journey Home Strategy and working with the provincial government. In the meantime, there are people living in our community who do not have homes for a variety of reasons. A temporary, outdoor sheltering site at the intersection of Richter Street and the Rail Trail replaced the old site at 890 Baillie Avenue in May 2021.
Housing people with complex needs | The Complex Needs Advocacy Paper was endorsed by City Council in July 2021. It takes a regional approach to supporting people who experience overlapping conditions affecting their overall health and wellbeing. Complex Care Housing is an essential component in achieving the Central Okanagan Journey Home Society goal of eliminating homelessness by 2024.
Rental Housing Grants program | This developer incentive provides up to $300,000 in annual grants to offset development cost charges for affordable rental housing projects. In 2020, three projects received grants, supporting 142 new affordable rental units in Kelowna.
Affordable Housing Land Acquisition Strategy (AHLAS) | An implementation action of the Healthy Housing Strategy, the AHLAS is focused on providing land for affordable rental housing. Access to affordable rental housing was identified in the Housing Needs Assessment as a key area of concern. Addressing housing in the subsidized rental housing segment of the Wheelhouse will help to proactively support a segment of the population that may be otherwise vulnerable to experiencing homelessness and to alleviate pressures for other types of housing.
- Housing Opportunities Reserve Fund | The fund collects money from property taxes, among other sources, to buy land to provide affordable housing. It also allows grants to be given to developers for building affordable housing.
Rental Housing Tax Exemptions | The revitalization tax exemption provides eligible purpose-built rental housing projects with relief from a share of municipal property taxes. This program is guided by the City’s Revitalization Tax Exemption Bylaw No. 9561.
Legal secondary suites | The City simplified the application process for building legal secondary suites. As a result, nearly 350 fully licensed suites came on the market in 2015, compared to 100 units in 2012 before the process changed.
Carriage houses | Carriage houses are secondary houses on single-detached lots that can be used as rentals. An additional 25 carriage houses were built in 2015 once the application process was simplified.
Infill housing | The addition of new housing units to existing neighbourhoods is an important part of the City's overall strategy to combat the impacts of urban sprawl and increase the supply of more attainable "missing middle" housing in Kelowna.
2023 Housing Needs Assessment | Following the Housing Wheelhouse framework, the 2023 Housing Needs Assessment identifies Kelowna's housing needs in the short and long term. This assessment was completed using technical analysis and community input, connecting with different groups, including those most impacted by housing shortages, service providers, Indigenous communities, and private sector organizations.
2017 Housing Needs Assessment | Guided by the Housing Wheelhouse framework, the 2017 assessment painted a picture of Kelowna both in the short‐term and long‐term (2040) in order to understand what our housing needs are today and how they may shift over time.
Rental Housing Inventory | On Aug. 26, 2019, City staff presented Council with an overview of the Rental Housing Inventory, which was one of the 19 recommended actions identified within the Healthy Housing Strategy’s key directions.
Rental Housing Grant Program Update | In 2019, the Rental Housing Grant Program, which works to reduce the cost of developing affordable, purpose-built rental housing, saw several updates including a shift focus to non-market long-term rental projects. In addition, the program received an additional annual budget of $60,000 per year for 2019-2022.
Affordable Housing Land Acquisition Strategy (AHLAS) | The development of an AHLAS was identified as a high-impact action to improve long-term housing affordability in Kelowna. An implementation activity of the Healthy Housing Strategy, the AHLAS is focused on providing land for affordable rental housing.
The City’s Annual Housing Report summarizes key data and statistics related to the ownership market and long-term rental housing market for the previous year. This research-oriented report provides an opportunity to understand how the rental housing and ownership markets are performing in relation to key targets identified in the City’s Healthy Housing Strategy.