In the best-attended forum to date during this year’s civic election campaign, council candidates made their pitch on Wednesday night to the Central Interior chapter of the Canadian Homebuilders Association downtown at the Colombo Lodge.
Housing affordability, land availability, the BC Energy Step Code and red tape at city hall were the topics du jour as many candidates pulled a double shift following an all-candidates forum earlier that day at South Kamloops secondary.
Mayoral candidate William Turnbull and council candidates Chris Bose, Dieter Dudy and Shawn Harnett were absent from the CHBA event.
On the issue of housing affordability, Denis Walsh suggested tax incentives to encourage developers to build rental homes. He said current incentives benefit the buyer, not the builder.
Mike O’Reilly suggested less prescriptive zoning and said Thompson Rivers University needs housing to accommodate its student body.
Students are currently pushed into the city, he said, driving up costs and decreasing vacancy.
Calling the cost of housing “prohibitive,” Dale Bass said young adults can’t afford to buy houses in Kamloops.
Mayoral candidate Ken Christian said there is a need for entry-level housing.
“For my kids and for your kids,” he said.
“I think that’s really important.”
The BC Energy Step Code has been a concern among homebuilders, who say implementing the new provincial green standards too quickly will trickle down with added costs to homebuyers in a market that already has issues with affordability.
The program is voluntary and certain municipalities are adopting it early.
CHBA-CI president Kelly Reid said the challenge in Kamloops is capacity of energy advisors, which could result in permit processing times jumping from six weeks to six months.
“Every cost — eventually the houses don’t get built because it just can’t be or the homeowner is eventually the one who pays that cost,” Reid said.
Homebuilders also note energy-efficient homes have come along in recent years and point to old houses for causing the most greenhouse gas emissions.
“Every dollar spent on a pre-1985 house is the equivalent of $10 on a new house, in terms of benefit,” Reid said. “We should be looking at fixing the old houses.”
Donovan Cavers was targeted directly on the Step Code by one CHBA member during the question-and-answer period. Asked directly about his credentials to be a city spokesperson for the BC Energy Step Code, Cavers said he has none.
He was appointed by the mayor to the city’s sustainability committee (which Cavers chairs) and voters ultimately decide which councillors to elect, Cavers said.
He again took the brunt during a speed round of yes-or-no answers gauging support for twinning of the Trans Mountain pipeline.
“Anonymous?” he asked of the questioner’s identity.
“Unanimous,” someone yelled from the audience.
Those pledging support for the pipeline project were Christian, O’Reilly, Nicholas Adams, Corally Delwo, Ray Dhaliwal, Dennis Giesbrecht, Sadie Hunter, Jim Johal, Stephen Karpuk, Caroline King, Bill Sarai, Kathy Sinclair, Arjun Singh and Gerald Watson. Opposed were Cavers, Walsh, Jennifer Adams and Alison Klie.
Bass said she is undecided, but leaning toward opposing the project.
CHBA member and past-president Rob Lemire said the homebuilder community — from developers to tradespeople to buyers — represents a significant investment worth millions of dollars of business in Kamloops.
He encouraged candidates and future councillors to attend the association’s monthly meetings to get a feel for the group’s side.
City staff attend regularly, with one development services staffer on the board of directors.
“We are down at the city more often than not and more often than most, so we do have a pulse and check on what’s going on,” Lemire said.
Reid said the homebuilders have a good relationship with the city’s development and engineering services department, but could benefit from more staff.