The Kamloops Food Policy Council has launched a series on food and the city to explore a number of deeper civic discussions leading up to our municipal election. As the late urban planner and Canadian food advocate Wayne Roberts wrote, “food is a lever.” Food is how we connect to the land, our communities, and our traditions. And because food is so impactful in all our lives, it is a useful lever through which we can create transformative changes in other areas. Strong local food systems can help us get to more affordable housing, walkable neighbourhoods, stronger local economies, spaces for safety and belonging, and more.
This is the first post in our Food & The City series. Subscribe here to stay in the loop about our ongoing food and the city posts!
Sustainable Development and Affordable Housing in Kamloops
*Portions of this post were published in the Kamloops This Week Connector Article. The condensed version of this article can be found here.
In January 2022, the provincial Agricultural Land Commission denied an application from Tranquille on the Lake to remove ~51 ha from the Agricultural Land Reserve for a housing development. This decision was welcomed by the Kamloops Food Policy Council, who had advocated against the proposal due to the loss of agricultural lands, expected harm to a sensitive ecosystem, and lack of acknowledgement for an important Secwepemc cultural heritage site.
The KFPC envisions a local food system that is regenerative, sovereign, and just. This means we advocate for development policies that protect agricultural lands and support the food security of our community. However, Kamloops is also in a severe housing crisis, and the lack of available, affordable housing is causing many families to struggle to put food on the table.
Unlimited growth, a mindset with deep roots in imperialism and colonialism, can lead to the devastating destruction of valuable agricultural land, sprawling expensive neighbourhoods, and car-dependent cities. Growth for the sake of growth isn’t automatically good. Yet, stopping all growth is a major contributing factor to our current housing crisis. Low development, NIMBYism, and zoning constraints have caused a dangerously low vacancy rate and a limited housing inventory.
What would “good growth” look like in Kamloops? Growth that is resilient, compassionate, and smart can help us thrive. Growth that focuses on the needs, desires, and intricacies of our community can help us become a better place – unlike growth that focuses on building as many luxury homes as possible in a quarter.
The KFPC is advocating for policies and action from housing developers and local government that encourages good growth, preserves our local food system and supports the distinctive needs of our community. More inclusive and economically savvy development – such as infill, multi-family, housing cooperatives and affordable rental housing units in our pre-existing neighbourhoods – are essential to increasing our low supply and meeting Kamloops’ current housing gaps. Housing that is net-zero, resilient to heat domes and flooding, and doesn’t expand the wildland-urban interface even further is equally important. Ensuring the right type of development is key to fostering the resilient long term health of Kamloops.
(where do we grow from here?)
Growth in the face of an affordability and availability housing crisis
Kamloops is in a severe housing crisis. Our population is growing more quickly than projected, and our inventory and community vacancy rates are at critically low levels. We know we are in desperate need of more housing supply.
However, not all development meets the current demands of our fast-growing city. Large single-family homes – like the ones planned in the recent Tranquille on the Lake Development – do not necessarily meet the budget of young families looking to enter the housing market as first time buyers or individuals or families looking to rent. Houses outside of city limits fall outside of our transportation network, and fail to meet the needs of single-parents or students relying on public transit.
Expanding outside of current boundaries also brings higher social and economic costs. The majority of Kamloops’ elementary schools are over capacity. While building new neighbourhoods in the proposed areas such as Edinburgh Heights or Tranquille on the Lake expands our city’s boundaries, they don’t address the current social needs around public infrastructure. These new areas would require new schools, potentially diverting funds from pre-existing schools experiencing some of the highest levels of over-capacity in B.C.
It’s important to note that expansive, luxury developments outside our core centre increase the demands on our city’s infrastructure and services, subsequently increasing our property taxes. A recent study released by Strong Towns and Urban3 found that development in car-centric suburban neighbourhoods produces a net negative to municipal budgets, and is subsidized by the net positive economic impact of denser, core neighbourhoods. These findings are similar to a recent study in Ottawa that found that low-density development costs the City of Ottawa $465 per person per year, while high-density infill development not only pays for itself, it leaves the City with an extra $606 per capita each year.
KamPlan identifies projected growth for the outer limits of Kamloops. According to the current StatsCanada data released in 2022, much of Kamloops’ recent population growth is due to its expansions just outside the city’s limits. This “donut-ring” development is occurring on the edge of our city limits and other bordering communities. These new developments come at a greater cost: economic strain (increase of property taxes to supply water/sewer and new schools), social strain (increase of inequities in the community when first time home buyers, lower income families and students are priced out of the market), and environmental strain (loss of ecosystems, agricultural lands and weakened food security).
Even as we’re so greatly in need of more housing – while lacking the infinite room to grow – we need to seriously consider whether this kind of development is actually meeting the needs of our community. Constricted by geographic and administrative boundaries, we have to be cognizant of the needs of and cost of development in our community. What direction are we growing? Can we use new development to create a more equitable Kamloops?
Growth in the face of climate change
The evacuation of Juniper, the complete eradication of Lytton, and the continuous blanket of smoke in summer 2021 revealed how unstable our future in the interior is with climate change. In the last several years, we have been faced with the impacts climate change will have on our communities in a very visible way. We need to prepare to experience more record breaking heat-waves and wildfire seasons, more extreme rainfall and flooding events, and greater impacts to our regional infrastructure.
Proposed growth and new housing development must be as resilient to climate change as possible to ensure the longevity and livability of our community. Continuing to develop on the wildland-urban interface exacerbates the potential risks of urban wildfires. This increases the potential destruction of property and life, displacement of evacuees, and increases home insurance and strata fees for all. Building more density in our core neighbourhoods can help mitigate our risk and vulnerability to climate change, while reducing living costs.
The sprawl of our community beyond its currently defined borders also poses concerns for preserving both agricultural lands and sensitive ecosystems. Regeneratively managed agricultural lands and ecosystems provide valuable contributions to our community’s food security and overall well-being: locally grown food, recreational greenspaces, enhanced biodiversity, wildfire prevention, and low-cost sustainable infrastructure for stormwater management are just a few examples. These “ecosystem services” have economic benefits too, as the Municipal Natural Assets Initiative has shown!
We also need to ensure that any new housing we develop is both resilient to climate impacts like flooding, wildfires and heat domes, but also net-zero and energy independent, so it doesn’t further contribute to the problem. NexBuild Construction’s net-zero 4 plex on Schubert Dr. is a great example, and of course we love the shared garden space for urban agriculture too!
KFPC’s Policy Recommendations for Sustainable, Resilient Development and Growth
So exactly what type of regulations, development, or policies can ensure the resilient long term health of Kamloops, rather than developing ourselves into a corner? The following recommendations can guide us to a healthier, happier, and more economically just Kamloops:
- Including more voices in development processes: We are calling for more deeply inclusive representation in development processes, such as:
- An inclusive citizen’s assembly or public forum for dialogue to generate creative solutions to housing affordability and availability.
- A YIMBY (yes in my backyard) campaign to raise awareness of the benefits of multi-family infill development and encourage increased density from secondary suites.
- Inclusive long-term planning processes.
- Public hearings that include other community members beyond property owners in neighbourhoods impacted by development proposals. We need to hear from renters, young adults who can’t afford to move out of their parents’ homes, single-parent families, etc. These voices should be encouraged and weighted more heavily given that they experience greater barriers to participation.
- Flexible development guidelines, regulations, and zoning: We are calling for bold changes to our municipal regulations to support, encourage, and foster infill development and increased density in our core neighbourhoods, such as:
- Removing single family zoning and adding density bonuses for all new non-profit, cooperative and rental developments, and for any for-profit developments that include additional community amenities.
- Eliminating parking requirements for all new non-profit, cooperative and rental developments, and for any for-profit developments that include green transportation options.
- Incentivizing good development: We are calling for the City of Kamloops to actively support creative and innovative models for increasing our supply of affordable housing, such as housing cooperatives and partnerships with local non-profit and for-profit developers. We also encourage our Council and City to advocate for Provincial and Federal initiatives to support affordable infill development.
- Protecting our urban wildland interface and agricultural lands: We are calling for greater protection for lands at the boundaries of our established neighbourhoods. Development on these lands must meet higher standards and account for the true cost of the loss of ecosystem services and increased climate change risk.
- Development accountability and transparency: When development is considered in locations that would contribute to urban sprawl, we are calling for greater accountability and transparency about the full scope of impacts to our city by this kind of development. Our specific recommendations include:
- Setting development fees at levels that truly cover the impacts and reflect the increased operational costs to the municipality over the long term (including schools, loss of ecosystem services, road maintenance, sewer expansion, and other services).
- Advocate to the Minister of Education and Childcare to implement fee increases for new residential developments to support public infrastructure, such as new schools. These measures can help foster equity into our taxation and development.
- Completing city-wide analysis of the economic costs and benefits of low-density vs. high-density development so the full scope of these costs are transparent to elected representatives and community members.
This list of recommendations is a living document that will evolve and grow as members of KFPC’s grassroots network engage with research and community voices on this topic. If you have any questions, please contact us: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you’re a municipal candidate and want to support any of these policies in your platform or to discuss further, please reach out to us: email@example.com
For the full list of Food & the City topics and recommendations, check out our webpage.