REGINA - Accelerating the housing availability in the city was a main topic at Regina council this week, as council gave their approval on Wednesday to Zoning Bylaw amendments aimed at increasing the housing supply.
What the latest Zoning Bylaw changes that were approved on Wednesday call for is more housing units to be built in neighbourhoods; an increase in permitted building heights on mid-and-high-density sites; and removal of parking minimums across the whole city. The last point had been the subject of much debate at Regina council over the years due to the reticence of councillors to remove the requirement of parking minimums.
The amendments are part of the city’s Housing Accelerator Fund Action Plan, and are aimed at getting the city in line for funding from the federal Housing Accelerator Fund program.
“The word ‘accelerator’ is kind of key to the money,” said Mayor Sandra Masters, who acknowledged that word causes “some panic” among those who work at a certain pace.
“But the whole point of the Housing Excelerator Fund is to remove barriers and increase the speed we could get housing approvals into market. I’m not interested in missing this particular construction season, and so I hope that message was delivered. But we’re really pleased with it. I mean, if we can garner roughly $36 million from the federal government for investment into this to help with our some of our regulation review, to help with understanding what developers need for certainty in for incentives, I think it’s a really good thing for the city.”
According to the city’s news release, in June 2023 the City of Regina had applied to the Housing Accelerator Fund with their Action Plan aimed at approving 1100 additional housing units by the end of 2026.
Last fall, city administration was directed to bring forward bylaw amendments to permit the additional housing development. These latest zoning bylaw amendments are considered just the first phase, with more to happen in 2024.
Masters was asked about some concerns raised from residents about the prospect of bringing higher density housing, such as high rise apartments, to neighborhoods that don’t have that yet.
“I think that’s what the Housing Excelerator is intended to do, it’s meant to transform cities,” said Mayor Masters. “So what was good in 1960 may not be good in 2020s. And so it’s about that prezoning or about removing the discretionary use, and saying this is allowed, so as a developer I have now certainty if I can compile acres of land I can build ‘X’ there because it’s already permitted use. And so the whole point of where the feds were trying to move municipalities was to everybody needs to change — we need to get more housing into market, both owned missing middle housing for ownership, for rental, but also multi family rental. It’s a real concern given what we’re seeing in the market right now.”