Saskatoon city council votes to rezone for higher housing density and secure federal funding

Saskatoon city council votes to rezone for higher housing density and secure federal funding

After two long days of deliberation, Saskatoon city council approved the zoning changes needed to qualify for $41 million from Ottawa’s affordable housing fund.

City council members voted to approve a series of zoning changes that align the city charter with the criteria for the federal Housing Accelerator Fund. The votes were not all unanimous.

The zoning changes will allow for fourplexes in residential areas throughout the city and allow for four-story developments along transit corridors.

Mayor Charlie Clark urged council members on Friday to approve the changes. He said the process isn’t perfect, but the end result will help a lot of people.

“This housing accelerator fund has probably been one of the biggest tests of leadership,” Clark said. “We have a housing and supply crisis, an affordability crisis and an inflation crisis. And as we see on the streets, a homelessness crisis. We have seen unprecedented record population growth in recent years.”

Of the $41 million in federal funding, the city plans to allocate $35 million to incentive programs, divided between the city’s own policies for innovative housing incentives, multi-unit housing in downtown and growth areas in the corridor, and housing development on land owned by the city. belongs to the city.

Saskatoon Mayor Charlie Clark discusses the Housing Accelerator Fund. (Travis Reddaway/CBC)

The city wants to focus on the ‘missing middle’ of the housing continuum and thus create a greater mix of affordable housing types.

According to a recent report from Statistics Canada, the Saskatoon metropolitan area grew by 16,161 people in the past year. According to the city, more than 5,000 homes are needed to accommodate this growth, but only less than half of that number has been built, often in relatively expensive homes.

On Thursday, the first day of deliberations, nearly 50 concerned citizens lined up to speak to council members, prompting the meeting to be moved to the late evening and the vote to be postponed for a day.

The meeting resumed Friday morning, with councillors peppering city staff with questions about the financing deal with Ottawa and the implications of rejecting the zoning changes.

Councilman Darren Hill voted against the rezoning because of the timing, saying the city should take more time to consult with the public.

“I’m not saying this current proposal is right or wrong,” Hill said Friday. “I’m saying it’s a divided community and we have a responsibility as a council to bridge that divide as best we can. If we pass this today, we’re not bridging that divide.”

Coun. Randy Donauer also opposed the rezoning changes, saying it is unfair for Ottawa to hold Saskatoon to the same funding criteria as Toronto.

“If the federal government has money for homelessness and affordable housing, they should distribute it,” Donauer said. “It is regrettable that the federal government is holding us hostage and intimidating municipalities by linking financing to zoning plan changes.”

The rezoning allows four units by default on most lots that are at least 50 feet wide in the city. Currently, most plots are occupied by single-family homes, but a maisonette or semi-detached house may be located on them. This effectively doubles what is allowed on many lots, from two units to four.

These can be terraced houses, or stacked houses with two units below and two above. They can also be small apartments with two units in the front and two in the back.

Another zoning change will allow the development of four-story apartments or condominiums within a half-mile of the city’s new transit corridors. The Bus Rapid Transit plan will revamp the city’s public transportation system with high-frequency buses along major routes, and routes in smaller neighborhoods that connect to those routes.

Councilor Hilary Gough welcomed the zoning changes to tackle the city’s housing crisis.

“Yesterday we heard from someone that his bedroom – a single room – is renting for $700 or $800 and someone offered him $1,000 a month for a bedroom that has never been seen before in our community,” Gough said.

“That is absolutely not sustainable. So we have to change how we grow and we have to accelerate the growth of our housing.”