Port Coquitlam stalls full endorsement of housing needs strategy plans until priorities are straight

Port Coquitlam City Hall. photo supplied

Implementation of Port Coquitlam’s housing needs strategy has hit a slight bump, after council wasn’t convinced its goals were prioritized correctly when staff presented the plan on May 9. 

The near-term items were endorsed by council, but secondary and future action items were put off for later.

Mayor Brad West said the priorities might need to be rejigged and discussed within the larger context of other municipal planning documents, referencing an update to the city’s Official Community Plan (OCP).


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“I find it challenging to give my stamp of approval, knowing the other (plans) that are there, but not having them as part of the context of this discussion,” West said. “Many of them are in the same bailiwick of this type of work.”

The city endorsed the official housing needs report in February, 2022, which concluded the city needs to build 550 units a year for the next 10 years.

One-third of these units need to be rental properties, another third need to be family oriented (three bedrooms), and two-thirds need to be group oriented, according to the report.

Like most Metro Vancouver cities, the biggest challenge is affordability. 

New housing should prioritize seniors, lone-parent families, one-person households, Indigenous community members, families (rental and ownership), persons with disabilities and individuals facing homelessness, according to the report.

Port Coquitlam’s implementation strategy was broken down into actions that are already ongoing, actions that are achievable under the current work plans, and future actions that will require additional staff resources.

Only the ongoing actions were endorsed.

Staff are currently working on a review of the city’s bonus density and inclusionary housing requirements – which are tradeoffs that allow developers to build more units in exchange for cash, amenities or non-market housing. 

They are also gauging the effectiveness of the family-friendly requirements, which mandate developments over 10 units to have a minimum of 25 percent allocated for larger units.

Developers fee and subdivision servicing bylaws are being reviewed and updated, along with a maintenance standards bylaw.

Lastly, the city is also looking for additional homeless shelter space and potential partnerships for more affordable or supportive housing, according to the report.

Bruce Irvine, director of planning and development, advised the city already has one of the highest percentages of affordable housing in the region, including many supportive and mental health facilities run by Fraser Health.

“I think when we look at new projects, we need to make sure it fits the right kind of gap in our city, and doesn’t overfill gaps that are well supplied,” Irvine said, adding he would like to see developments with a mix of unit types.

The secondary actions focus on the city’s current and future rental stock policies, including minimum rental replacements when a building is redeveloped, and zoning and incentive programs.

Future programs are expected to have a significant impact on the overall housing supply by expanding infill developments, staff said.

Plans include intensifying rowhouses, townhouse, and small lot developments in certain areas, described by staff as the “missing middle type of housing.”

The city should also be looking for development opportunities on larger sites, and consider pre-zoning strategic locations for higher density projects, according to staff.

Secondary and future actions, however, have been put on hold for the time being.

West voiced concern over the planning department’s capacity, as council is currently providing them a list of major priorities in adjacent areas.

“I know in the back of my head, I’ve got a dozen other things that I want you to do,” West said. “There may be some rental things that I think we should do, but I’m concerned about signing off on this as it’s currently laid out.”

Irvine said the mayor’s assessment was “bang on,” as the planning department is trying to juggle the policies and goals set by the council.

He said the list was prioritized in its current form due to what had already been started under previous council directions.

However, he added council should “not park this report too much longer.”

“I know that council has been working very actively on a larger priority system, and how this list fits in,” Irvine said.  “Certainly some of those individual policy pieces could be measured into the other work that council is directing.”

Coun. Dean Washington suggested backfilling some of the work by hiring consultants.

“If this was going to slow down the OCP update by one second, I would not endorse it,” Washington said. “Looking at those other forms of housing, especially in the downtown, to me, is the priority.”

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