Cranbrook, BC (June 27, 2023) – Four resolutions around improving housing development and community safety were approved by Council Monday night, with these resolutions being forwarded to the Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) for discussion at their annual convention in September 2023.
“As a Council, we have been involved in several meetings directly with various Provincial ministers to discuss improving housing development and community safety in Cranbrook,” says Mayor Wayne Price. “These meetings resulted in an exchange of ideas and follow-up letters, but Council has also expressed a desire to have these ideas put forward to UBCM for consideration and support from other municipalities, to ask for changes at the Province by the UBCM officially.”
Around community safety, Council is forwarding a resolution requesting the ability to move staff resources from the Provincial RCMP Integrated Road Safety Unit (IRSU) that reports to Victoria to the Cranbrook RCMP detachment, when they encounter staffing shortages in general policing duties.
On development approvals, the province is working on systems to speed up municipal development approvals to see housing built faster. Most municipal processes take just weeks, while some referrals must go to BC Hydro, the Ministry of Environment, and the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI), which can take months. Council is requesting resources be provided to these ministries to speed up these Provincial processes.
The cost to upgrade municipal services, like water, storm, and sanitary sewer, can also be a barrier to higher-density affordable housing projects encouraged by Victoria. The resolution from Council to the UBCM requests the province create a non-competitive grant program so municipalities can plan for and improve infrastructure through annual replacement and upgrades that facilitate higher-density affordable housing projects each year with certainty.
And Council provided a resolution for the province to develop an infrastructure ‘oversizing’ process for required highway or intersection upgrades, similar to municipal infrastructure oversizing. Currently, if an area is developed, the municipality can require the early developers to install oversized water and sewer lines so they can meet the needs of all future developments and not be dug up and replaced as each new development is added. This "oversizing" cost is calculated and paid back to the early developer; the City collects from future developers through latecomer agreements until this is paid off. Suppose the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI) requires a significant roadway or intersection upgrade. In that case, the early developer must pay the full cost, and the subsequent developers can enjoy this benefit. The "upfront" cost faced by early developers can be a deterrent to development.
Affordable and accessible housing remains a challenge in Cranbrook and communities across BC. However, with 21 subdivision applications currently working through the system with the City’s Engineering and Development Services department, along with development permit and zoning updates currently in the queue, just over 840 new housing units may come online at full buildout in Cranbrook, with more in the early planning stages. These figures were provided to Council in an Administration Update presented at Council’s regular meeting on June 12, 2023.