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Era of building single-family home neighbourhoods is over: Coquitlam mayor

Mayor Richard Stewart believes Coquitlam should be looking at building more multi-family homes.

Gone are the days of building single-family home neighbourhoods, Coquitlam's mayor said this week.

Instead, to meet population targets in Metro Vancouver's Regional Growth Strategy and to make housing more affordable, the city should be constructing more townhomes and apartment blocks — unless the topography is too challenging, Mayor Richard Stewart told council on Monday (July 31).

The topic cropped up during a discussion for a bid on Burke Mountain, where Double Kappa Holdings (aka Wesbild) wants to subdivide three properties south of the Pinecone Burke Provincial Park to create 19 lots for single-family houses, plus four parcels to protect a watercourse and a park site.

The proposal for 3631 and 3635 Harper Rd., as well as a portion of 3531 Hickstead Ave., received first reading to go to a public hearing on Sept. 11, despite Coun. Robert Mazzarolo opposing the plan.

"Our city has many very beautiful single-family house neighbourhoods," Mazzarolo said. "I don’t believe we should remove all of them. Some should stay; however, I do not believe we should be creating more….given where the market is now.

"I don't believe this is an appropriate use of the land."

Andrew Merrill, Coquitlam's general manager of planning and development, said city staff suggested the 7.2-acre property go to a higher land use, but because the site slopes at a 29 per cent grade between Harper Road and the northern lot line, it would be hard to squeeze in more housing.

"There's not a lot of room" for townhomes, Coun. Dennis Marsden said. "I get why this makes sense."

According to a report from Chris McBeath, acting director of development services, the site is largely deforested.

Between 2015 and 2019, it was regraded with a tiered retaining wall for the Strawline Hill subdivision and for Harper Road. The site also has four unnamed tributaries to Star and Fox creeks.

If approved following the public hearing, the project would bring in $1.1 million in development cost charges (DCC) for Coquitlam city hall, as well as $180,000 in community amenity contributions.

Stewart said he wants to send a signal to the market that single-family housing in Coquitlam "is not an option for the community" given the housing pressures facing B.C. municipalities to grow.

"The era of building single-family home neighbourhoods is over," the mayor said, noting local governments and developers need to "wean off" the form "because we don't have any land left."

Added Merrill, "Staff have been mindful of the shift in both society and the housing market."