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Five-storey affordable housing coming to downtown Penticton

City council approves controversial height variance to allow for much-needed housing
M’akola Housing Society, through funding from BC Housing, will build a five storey affordable housing building at 603 Main Street. (Rendering)

Affordable housing will be coming to downtown Penticton for the first time in a long time but not without some controversy.

At Tuesday’s meeting, city council approved a height variance and development approval for M’akola Housing Society to construct a five-storey building on an empty lot in downtown Penticton.

Once open, the building will provide 28 affordable apartment units. But this will be the first five-storey building allowed as the Official Community Plan only allows for three storeys in the area.

M’akola will have its office on the ground level and there will be an on-site caretaker.

Located at 603 Main Street, the proposal was first brought to the city in 2020 before the developers were sent away to clear a number of hurdles regarding the height variance.

On Tuesday, council approved a variance to allow for an extra 2.4 metres of height.

The vote was 4-2 with councillors Judy Sentes and Katie Robinson staunchly opposed.

“I am adamantly opposed to this project. In our OCP, we have a maximum of three storeys downtown. They are asking for five stories and yet another height variance,” said Robinson. “It shouldn’t be on Main Street.”

Sentes said the Downtown BIA was heavily involved in the review of the OCP and advocated strongly height restrictions in the downtown.

“This project checks so many boxes but it’s in the wrong place,” Sentes said.

Other councillors had praise for the project.

“This is a big missing piece of our housing inventory in Penticton,” said Coun. James Miller.

The additional 2.4 metres in height will bring seven additional housing units. If that extra height wasn’t approved, M’akola said the project would no longer be financially feasible.

Coun. Campbell Watt said this type of housing is the reason the bike lane was built.

“The bike lane is right beside this so as for parking issues this is the form of transportation we can look to,” said Watt.

Coun. Julius Bloomfield said the architect took the design back and created a building stepped back to lessen the impact of the height variance.

The five-storeys will accommodate a mix of one, two and three-bedroom units for families and seniors, as well as for individuals.

Of the units 20 per cent will accommodate ‘deep affordability’ for individuals who can only pay shelter rates; 50 per cent of units will see rent tied to income with 30 per cent of income going to rent. The remaining 30 per cent of the units will be low-end market rent.

Miller asked if this building could serve those in the hospitality industry who can’t afford current rent in Penticton.

BC Housing is funding the construction of the building but M’akola will own and operate it.

READ MORE: Penticton to consider contentious 5-storey affordable housing in downtown

Monique Tamminga

About the Author: Monique Tamminga

Monique brings 20 years of award-winning journalism experience to the role of editor at the Penticton Western News. Of those years, 17 were spent working as a senior reporter and acting editor with the Langley Advance Times.
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