Kamloops mayoral and councillor candidates were quizzed on development issues during the final civic election forum of the campaign season and against the backdrop of sky-high housing costs in Kamloops.
On Wednesday night (Oct. 12), the Central Interior chapter of the Canadian Home Builders’ Association and the Interior Association of Realtors co-hosted a housing forum. About 200 builders, developers, realtors, mortgage brokers, suppliers, candidates, family members and more were in attendance at Colombo Lodge east of downtown to hear from all five mayoral candidates and 17 of 23 council hopefuls.
Absent were Bonnie Cleland, Francois Lambert, Darrell LaRiviere, Gordon Mac, Reo Rocheleau and Darpan Sharma. Candidates were asked prepared questions and introduced themselves to the association, described as the “leading advocate of residential construction” in Interior B.C.
Association accountant Mario Piroddi moderated and said the residential construction industry provides 3,771 jobs in Kamloops, $255 million in wages and $487 million in investment value.
“The people in these rooms are the ones who are literally building the community,” Piroddi said.
Mayoral candidate Ray Dhaliwal was asked how he would tackle limited land available for development. Dhaliwal suggested expanding city boundaries.
Mayoral candidate Dieter Dudy was asked about balancing infill development with neighbourhoods’ resistance. Dudy suggested getting rid of “unnecessary public hearings” and talking to neighbourhoods before a development permit is issued about parking and traffic, which he said are common concerns.
Mayoral candidate Reid Hamer-Jackson said he is a businessman and the development industry equates to tax revenue, so he wants to turn red tape into green tape.
Mayoral candidate Sadie Hunter said she used to work for a log home company, noting her family has ties to the construction industry. Hunter was asked how she would bring progressive zoning to the city and she said she wants pre-zoned areas, pre-approved plans and a digital portal.
Mayoral candidate Arjun Singh was asked about incentivizing homeowners to upgrade properties similar to what is being legislated to builders through the BC Energy Step Code. Singh said he was “forceful” in ensuring conversations occurred with homebuilders when the Step Code was introduced. He said he has been involved in provincial and national climate committees and emphasized the need to ensure ideas work locally. Singh said incentives and education should come before mandates.
“We have to get there in a very slow way,” he said.
Councillor candidates also shared their views. Randy Sunderman suggested staffing the city’s development department and technology utilized in other cities to improve the process at city hall. Nancy Bepple said that, in 2020, only 43 new lots were created in Kamloops and only 18 were from subdivisions.
“So that tells me that’s like 0.1 per cent of all the 20,000 lots in Kamloops were subdivided,” she said. “It’s either too expensive or too difficult to subdivide lots in Kamloops.”
Dennis Giesbrecht suggested engagement from the bottom up, with neighbourhood associations, rather than from the top down, to gain development buy-in. Stephen Karpuk suggested carriage and laneway houses to combat limited land availability.
Jesse Ritcey said density is not happening because it is easier to put a development on the outskirts of the city.
Katie Neustaeter said she wants to hear from the industry and noted she can vote on projects without declaring a conflict of interest.
Asked about increasing housing, council candidate Kelly Hall suggested looking at available city and government property, densification throughout all of Kamloops and “less regulation.”
“We also need to basically let the builders build,” he said. “Less regulation.”
Mike O’Reilly told the group that, of nearly 2,500 units that “came across council’s desk” in the past four years, he didn’t vote in support of only six lots.
“Everything else I did,” O’Reilly said. “There’s a lot of people that are going to say they support densification and more housing, but the talk is pretty cheap and I walk the walk and I support development.”
Dale Bass pointed to roadblocks for housing planned for Pineridge Golf Course in Dallas.
“The whole system needs a retool, so that you don’t sit there waiting and waiting and wondering and watching your costs go up while you sit there waiting and wondering,” she said.
Speaking with KTW after the forum, realtor Aaron Krausert said he was impressed with mayoral candidate Hunter, for whom he had already voted during advanced voting. He said Hunter had an “actual plan” to speed up developments because she has council experience.
Krausert said what he did not hear from candidates is how they plan to attract staff to the city’s development and engineering department, which is said to be under-resourced, due to union limitations.
CHBA-CI president Tom Calne told KTW the association hosts an election forum to help members learn what candidates stand for and to help them vote for candidates best for the industry.
Calne said the industry is hoping for an easier path toward infill development and resources to be put back into the city’s development and engineering services building. And he would like the city to reach out for help.
“We always want to be part of the solution” Calne said.
Calne said the last council had “good intentions,” but he said more focus was put on social housing than attainable housing in the last term.
The Central Interior chapter of the Canadian Home Builders’ Association is non-partisan and does not endorse specific candidates.