When 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…
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.