Councillor Hawkins Meddles With Housing Pilot Project

This Week at City HallWhen Mayor Michael Fougere announced the formation of the Mayor’s Housing Commission at the Mayor’s Housing Summit on May 14, I was worried. Creating a new city committee is one of those political moves that sounds like a good idea. You know, it shows that council takes the issue so seriously that they’re going to gather the best minds in the city and have them work round the clock to come up with solutions.

A cynic like myself, however, thinks, “Great, one more layer of bureaucracy gumming everything up.”

Well, if you want to see some gummy, gummy bureaucracy in action, here’s your chance…

Some context…

At the Jan 27 council meeting, administration presented a report from Planning Commission about a pilot project for lane-way housing in Harbour Landing. Lane-way housing is where you build small, independent suites on the back of a lot — often above a garage — that front onto a back alley. These units can be rented out by the homeowner. Currently, you’d have trouble adding one to your lot in Regina but they’re all the rage in Vancouver right now and are helping to relieve some of the housing pressure there.

As part of the city’s new Comprehensive Housing Strategy, Regina is considering making a bylaw that’ll make lane-way housing viable here. But first, they’re doing a series of pilot projects to see how they work out.

The pilot project being considered in the video above is the last before city administration start the work of making lane-way housing legal.

Unfortunately, as you can see, Councillor Hawkins has decided to throw a big ol’spanner in the works and drag the whole issue of lane-way housing — which was debated, consulted on and hacked out during the consultation leading up to the Comprehensive Housing Strategy, hence the reason it’s called comprehensive — back to the Mayor’s Housing Commission for further discussion.

Remember, this would have been the final pilot project. This is awfully late in the game for a sober umpteenth look. And functionally all this seems to be doing is slowing down the process and adding layers of complexity to it.

When the Mayor’s Housing Commission was announced back in May, the idea as presented was that it would facilitate the creation of more housing in the city and it would encourage the densification of existing and proposed neighbourhoods. But here we see Councillor Hawkins take a plan for a neighbourhood that a developer has brought forward and use the Mayor’s Housing Commission to reduce the proposed density and reduce the amount of housing that neighbourhood will provide.

The justification he seems to be offering is twofold: The lane-way housing pilot project will put too much parking pressure on the neighbourhood; and, there aren’t enough community amenities in the area to support this population.

As for the first, for fuck’s sake… parking concerns getting in the way of good ideas? Again? Did he miss the part where the city’s parking planner — that is, the expert city hall hired to plan for parking — had already gone over the project and gave it an okay?

And as for the second, creating a dense neighbourhood that needs amenities and services is exactly how you create the demand for those services. Not the other way around.

Anyway, this lane-way housing is being considered by the Mayor’s Housing Commission as I type this blog post. I can’t go to the meeting because of the usual reasons. But I’ll be interested to see what the minutes show. And I’ll be interested to see what comes back to council and how that debate goes.

As for Hawkins’ referral motion that inspired my rant, I thought I would end by noting how council voted — you know, for posterity. In favour of sending lane-way housing to committee: Hawkins, Hincks, Findura, Young and Burnett. Opposing the motion were Councillor Fraser and the chair of the Regina Planning Commission — that’d be commission that already examined and okayed this project — Councillor O’Donnell.

Author: Paul Dechene

Paul Dechene is 5'10'' tall and he was born in a place. He's not there now. He's sitting in front of his computer writing his bio for this blog. He has a song stuck in his head. It's "Girl From Ipanema", thanks for asking. You can follow Paul on Twitter at @pauldechene and get live updates during city council meetings and other city events at @PDcityhall.

7 thoughts on “Councillor Hawkins Meddles With Housing Pilot Project”

  1. Dang, I was working today and couldn’t go throw a spanner back at Hawkins. What ward does he represent? hmmm….

    Why would you shut down a pilot project anyways. That is where you find out if it works…

    Now I’ve got to go find those minutes and see if they bunged this up.

    On a side note, is the Laneway housing project idea better then having a 3 or 4 story condo building? I’m not sure how it will work out but it might be fine and a successful idea. I figure if homeowners and developers are willing to invest the cash to build a Laneway house then let them do it. I can’t see how parking would be a project or what the school would complain about either…

  2. Harbour Landing will have condos, townhouses and apartments alongside the single detached houses. The laneway suite is just one more housing form to add to the mix.

    Thing is, my understanding was that laneway housing is ideally suited for older neighbourhoods like Cathedral and Heritage where there are houses you’re not likely to tear down to replace with apartments but want to find a way to boost density. Why they’re setting their pilot projects in new neighbourhoods, I don’t know.

    But if Hawkins thinks laneway suites will add too much density to a suburb like Harbour Landing, I can’t see him letting them go through in those older neighbourhoods where density is typically higher.

  3. Yes, laneway housing would create a demand for services. Unlike giant exurb bullshit sprawl, which generally needs brand new infrastructure to go with services.

    And let’s not forget that these would be rental properties, which tend to fill up with rootless renters who are only there to undermine the community with their luftmensch ways.

  4. The Boom is over. Take a drive to Harbour Landing and look at all the houses sitting empty. A relative of mine bought a house on James Hill Road and moved there last May – 9 months ago. The neighbouring houses were empty when they moved in, and are still sitting empty, because no one has bought them. The developer reluctantly admitted there may be an over supply of new houses.

  5. With regret, I find myself on the side of those that are at least testing the brakes before we gun it straight into the icy laneway housing curve.

    I know it’s trendy to support any cause that wraps itself in the flag of creating cheap housing.

    But I have serious doubts on the viability and sustainability of this idea. Vancouver is always cited, but Vancouver is one of the most unique and dysfunctional housing markets in the free world.

    Part of how Vancouver laneway housing works is that heating these suites is distinctly easier than in Regina, how they have transit, and nearby jobs, and off-the-charts real estate costs.

    What’s next, oceanfront housing proposals for Regina? Or borrowing to host the Olympics so we can create low quality housing out of low quality athlete’s village apartments?

    Jacking up density on cathedral lots that are already dense isn’t a good solution. Cramming people into low grade garage apartments will hurt and inconvenience the other property owners in that area, and caters mostly to profit obsessed absentee landlords anyway. Meanwhile we’ll continue to create unsustainable sprawl areas at the margins in the McMansion neighborhoods.

    Now if the laneway housing rule said it would be permitted in Harbour Landing, Somerset, and the sprawling areas, that might be more interesting.

    Maybe have minimums such as only single family home with minimum 51 foot frontage or minimum 6300 sq foot land area. Make a rule that laneway housing is allowed only when the owner permanently occupies the same lot and must suspend rentals if the owner goes absentee.

  6. Hello Reader,

    This is going to be fun. Did you even watch the video? Hawkins claimed that Harbour Landing was the wrong place to be doing Laneway housing suggesting that Cathedral would be a better neighborhood to do it in.

    All those silly rules you just suggested are silly. Your implication that we can regulate ourselves into a good situation on this matter is also completely wrong. None of those regulations suggested are good at all. Completely arbitrary and useless.

    Jacking up density on Cathedral is the solution. Take a look at places like Rosemont. Rosemont is actually less dense now then 40 years ago. Jacking up the density is needed or more businesses will close because there aren’t enough people in that neighborhood to actually support them. If Cathedral wants to keep Safeway for example it needs to actually have people near it that will shop there to keep it alive. I’d bet density in Cathedral is actually down from 40 years ago also.

    The most entertaining thing I found in your post was this quote though, “Cramming people into low grade garage apartments will hurt and inconvenience the other property owners in that area, and caters mostly to profit obsessed absentee landlords anyway. Meanwhile we’ll continue to create unsustainable sprawl areas at the margins in the McMansion neighborhoods.” I dispute that it will hurt and inconvenience other property owners. I dispute that it caters mostly to profit obsessed absentee landlords. And the very entertaining argument of citing that we are going to continue to create “unsustainable sprawl areas” while arguing against density.

    If I only had more time to post about this. Its late, I need sleep. Reader please do respond, I’m sure this exchange will be fun.

    Adam

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