Barriere council has given first reading to a rezoning proposal that could pave the way to more multi-family housing in the district.
The proposal, expected to go to public hearing by Oct. 4, involves a two-acre site at 4329 Yellowhead Hwy that used to be a former go-kart track. The property is currently designated commercial and has been vacant for several years.
CAO Bob Payette didn’t want to speculate on the results of the public hearing but said generally Barriere is in desperate need of affordable and seniors’ housing.
The proposal has to go back to council following the public hearing for additional approvals.
“For sure, we need affordable housing,” Payette said. “There’s almost zero vacancy in Barriere and no rentals to be seen.”
If the proposal is successful, it would be up to the developer to determine how many units they plan to build on the site, but Payette figures they could have up to 10 homes on the property, which is long and narrow.
Any future building plans would have to conform to the residential requirements in terms of setbacks, parking, access from Railway Avenue and utility infrastructure.
“It’s an attractive lot because it has sewer and water already available so it’s ready to go,” Payette said.
He maintains Barriere has seen an uptick in people moving to the area over the past few years, mainly because of its proximity to Kamloops. Plans for a new 24-unit housing development are moving ahead in the district’s downtown – as part of a partnership between the B.C. government and Yellowhead Community Services Society – while another 10 single-family housing projects are also being built.
However, Payette said more units are needed, especially with four new companies in the midst of moving to the district, which he estimates will require housing for up to 20 staff.
“All of these new employees coming to town will need a place to live,” he said. “A lot of people would prefer to live in Barriere if they could find a place to live. It’s the same everywhere in small-town B.C.
“It’s really difficult to get multi-family units starts in a small town because builders have to build it on speculation. We’re really hoping for more and council is doing what it can to make it happen.”
A report to the district last week from the Kamloops District Real Estate Association, which includes Barriere, noted the local market had “smashed monthly sales records” since June 2020 but recently plateaued following a red-hot summer that saw increasing sales to people from Vancouver and the Fraser Valley.
The real estate association saw 51 buyers coming from the Fraser Valley region and 109 coming from Vancouver in the first six months of 2020. These numbers increased to 146 and 296 respectively, across the same months in 2021.
The number of buyers from Central and Northern B.C. rose from 48 sales in the first six months of 2020 to 70 in 2021.
Payette said he anticipates the trend to continue.
“Over the last couple of years, I’ve noticed Barriere has the most housing starts and seems to have the most sales per capita. For some reason, Barriere has taken off,” he said. “The thing is, there is no inventory. There are only one or two houses on the market. There’s nothing to buy so whoever is selling can put their prices up.”