Home builders

Okanagan homebuilders want city council to focus more on affordability than aesthetics | infonews

This Rutland-approved 84-unit apartment has been criticized for not having a “wow” factor.

July 17, 2022 – 5:37 pm

The most energy-efficient and affordable houses to build are not necessarily very pretty.

People who build homes in Kelowna want the City of Kelowna to know that and make decisions about affordability versus appearance.

“The most energy-efficient building is a box with an appropriate window-to-wall ratio,” Daniel Winer, executive director of the Central Okanagan Canadian Home Builders’ Association, told iNFOnews.ca. “In 2027, when we want to get to net zero on Passive House standards, we can’t have all of these overhangs and all of the interesting architectural elements if we’re going to get to net zero.”

It refers to new energy efficiency standards that aim to ensure that all new homes built in British Columbia emit zero greenhouse gas emissions.

The association, which has more than 300 members who build homes in the area, sent a letter to the city asking for clarification on what staff and elected officials actually want to build.

The letter highlights a number of comments from councilors in recent times calling for ‘world class’ buildings. It was sparked most recently after council reluctantly approved an 84-unit rental apartment building in Rutland over concerns about the building’s lack of amenity space and appearance.

“We deserve more,” the adviser said. Mohini Singh spoke about the project at the July 12 council meeting. “We are at the stage in our evolution where we need to have more of a wow factor in our developments. I grit my teeth and will support this but barely.

Later, at the same meeting, a 36-unit apartment on Coronation Avenue crossed the council in part, it seems, because the plaintiff had good drawings of the project.

“It lacks imagination, in my mind, but it’s not so bad that I can’t say yes,” the adviser said. Charlie Hodge spoke about this project.

But no adviser said he was hesitant to endorse it.

Both projects have been criticized for having a lack of “amenity” space.

This 36 unit on Coronation Street easily got council approval.

This 36 unit on Coronation Street easily got council approval.

“We are concerned and alarmed that at a time when housing has never been more unaffordable, council is focusing on building aesthetics,” Winer told iNFOnews.ca. “Every time you want to improve the aesthetics of a building, the cost of construction is going to increase.”

READ MORE: How the Kamloops and Okanagan governments are raising new home prices

Every added bump, corner or overhang not only increases cost, but decreases energy efficiency, he said.

So does the apparent desire to have more glass in buildings. The cost of glass has jumped 40% in recent weeks on top of a number of increases in recent months, Winer said.

He pointed to One Water Street, Kelowna’s tallest building with a strong emphasis on glass.

“Not only is glass expensive, it’s less energy efficient than a standard insulated wall,” he wrote in his letter to council. “If glass is what makes a building ‘world class’, expect that to be reflected in the sale price of the home.”

To make building facades more attractive, a mixture of different materials, such as steel, stucco, stone or glass, is often used.

“Adding more materials to the building facade adds more cost, more waste, more shipping, and more labor complexity,” Winer wrote.

He also raised concerns about council complaints about the lack of green space and amenities in these projects.

Developers now pay the city $14,180 for every home they build so the city buys land for the parks and builds them. That’s double what it was a few years ago, when they just had to pay to buy the land.

“For the development in question, there are 84 units,” Winer wrote. “This will generate up to $1.19 million for local parks. We suggest to council that some of this money could have been spent on improving the amenity space in the development, as opposed to a generic parks fund.

READ MORE: Young people struggle to afford to live in Kelowna

In this building, 75 of the 84 units are micro-suites, studios or one bedroom.

Winer suggests that park fees be based on square footage to aid affordability. Right now, that’s the same price for a 500 square foot micro-suite as a 5,000 square foot luxury home.

“Our community needs leadership on the issues most important to residents,” he concluded in his letter to the city. “We are asking City Council and staff to clarify the definition of ‘world class’ and provide guidance on the types of homes we want to create in our community.”

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