Councillors moving slowly on strata conversion bylaw proposal

The proposed bylaw to create a strata conversion policy has reached the first reading phase of the process.

The proposed bylaw to create a strata conversion policy has reached the first reading phase of the process.

Although staff had recommended the first two readings (Bylaws require three readings, plus a final adoption before it goes into effect), Corinne Scott on moving the recommendation said not giving second reading will give council more time to consider the subject.

The plan is in reaction to drastically falling vacancy rates in Kitimat. In a previous report given to councillors from the planning staff, they were told that “with the current increase in housing prices there is a possibility that owners of rental housing will convert their buildings into strata-title properties.”

In town, 262 rental units are currently being renovated, according to a staff report. That includes apartment buildings like Hillcrest Place and Kuldo Apartments, to townhouses like on Nalabila, or Little Wedeene Street townhouses.

Councillors discussed this issue at a July 22 Committee of the Whole meeting, before the first draft bylaw reached the regular council chambers.

Councillors however are opting to move slowly on the changes.

They also dropped staff recommendations to set a public hearing date on the matter for early September.

“This is an important decision that needs to be looked at very, very carefully,” said Scott, adding that there’s no need to rush any decision on this.

Councillors also wanted to ensure any affected property owners would be directly alerted to these proposed changes.

Mario Feldhoff said he wants to hear from those people very early in the process, rather than later.

“I’m particularly interested in the feedback from the building community,” he said. I need to be convinced that this bylaw is necessary. I know there’s good intentions…[but]I don’t know if putting the lid on strata conversion is the way to go.”

Director of Planning and Community Development Gwen Sewell said that contacting owners is the department’s intention once first reading passed, and that people hadn’t been consulted earlier because there was no actual draft bylaw being considered for any readings until the August 6 meeting.

Among the other ways council deviated from staff’s recommendations was for BC Housing to be struck from the list of agencies that the District would refer the bylaw to for comment.

Feldhoff put forward that friendly amendment who didn’t believe there’d be value from getting input from them.

“The answer is not tightening the lid on strata conversions,” he continued. “The answer is developing rental housing options and putting a lid on things doesn’t help upgrade our older rental stock.”