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New provincial rules pinch Coquitlam's housing, child care plans

Coquitlam city manager Raul Allueva described the current state of affairs at city hall as operating under “a fog” for development processes.
Aerial view of construction workers. | Getty Images

New provincial rules about building homes in B.C. are throwing a wrench in Coquitlam’s work plans for housing and child care.

This morning, Feb. 26, council-in-committee heard from managers about their plans for the upcoming year, and how much their current workload will be on the backburner while the legislation is implemented locally.

Committee chair Coun. Brent Asmundson took aim at the province for passing its legislation without local government consultation, and said the changes have created “unintended consequences” that will slow down new housing builds and child care spaces.

He also asked Victoria to set aside its legislation and look at Coquitlam as a leader in creating homes and child care opportunities in B.C.

Instead, he suggested, the senior governments need to focus on affordable living.

According to a report from Andrew Merrill, Coquitlam’s general manager of planning and development, the province’s new mandate for housing will change the city’s ability to manage, finance and prioritize growth, as well as its associated amenities and infrastructure.

Specifically, the new rules will change the city’s density bonus and affordable housing programs along transit routes.

Coquitlam’s density bonus program is the sole source for its Affordable Housing Reserve Fund, which is used to build affordable housing with external partners.

But, with the province now mandating minimum allowable densities in transit-oriented areas, that fund is at risk, Merrill said.

City manager Raul Allueva described the current state of affairs at city hall as operating under “a fog” for development processes.

And the regulatory changes to the BC Building Code, which take effect next month, further complicate matters, he said.

However, Allueva said, the province is listening to the city’s concerns and “what they do in response is still to be seen. I’m not sure they went down the full policy dive.”

As for childcare spaces, Coquitlam’s work will also be slowed with the new provincial legislation.

Under Coquitlam’s Child Care Partnership Strategy (CCPS), the density bonus and the Community Amenity Contribution tools may also be in jeopardy.

Social planner Torill Gillespie told the committee about the city’s successes over the past year to boost childcare spaces.

Currently, there are 184 licensed child care facilities, with a combined total of 5,185 spots — a 10 per cent uptick over 2019:

  • infant/toddler (0 to 36 months): 19 spaces per 100 children (above CCPS target)
  • pre-schoolers (3 to 5 years old): 55 spaces per 100 children (above CCPS target)
  • school-aged (older than 5 years): 12.5 spaces per 100 children (below CCPS target)

Coun. Robert Mazzarolo said having more child care facilities on School District 43 land “seems like a natural fit.”

And he blasted the province about its new rules around the tenure and delivery of child care spaces.

Asmundson also voiced concern about current child care centres closing down, and new operators not able to open up, because of the new legislation.

Council will send a letter about the impacts of the provincial changes on Coquitlam’s housing and child care to the Tri-Cities’ MLAs, as well as B.C. Premier David Eby and the ministers for education, childcare, and finance.