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City council approves creating a new Land Use Bylaw to allow more varied housing

Aim is to allow for more tiny homes, in-law and secondary suites in future
Red Deer city council approved the philosophy guiding an update of the Land Use Bylaw that allows more flexibility for the construction of different types of housing. (Black Press file photo).

More democratic and affordable housing solutions — such as allowing the construction of in-law or secondary suites on properties — are envisioned with changes to the City of Red Deer’s Land Use Bylaw.

On Monday city council gave unanimous support for a new philosophy to guide an update of the Land Use Bylaw, which sets rules and regulations for land development in the city.

The one goal is removing some of the road-blocks that stand in the way of building a wider variety of housing in residential areas.

Council was told some of the city’s current zoning is unintentionally discriminatory. For instance, only single-family homes can be built in certain areas, even through many people can’t afford this type of housing, said the city’s major projects planner David Girardin.

Co-habitation by unrelated people is forbidden in other neighbourhoods — which doesn’t consider some cultural practises, and can also keep housing out of reach for some citizens, said city manager Tara Lodewyk.

If some of these rules were removed, residents could gradually see more in-law suites constructed in backyards — or carriage houses over their garages, or even tiny homes.

An administrative review has been underway since 2021 on the city’s Land Use Bylaw.

Before a newly altered version can be presented to city council later this year, administrators needed to get council’s response to increasing flexibility and adaptability and reducing unnecessary regulations.

Erin Stuart, the city’s licensing and inspections manager, said a revamped Land Use Bylaw would get rid of the need for so many site exceptions. The document will be simplified to enhance usability, leading to a better customer experience, as well as more red-tape reduction. It would also be more considerate of various people’s and businesses’ needs.

Mayor Ken Johnston said the pandemic changed views of how commercial ventures can operate, as well how people live, so maybe some empty commercial spaces in the city could be reconfigured into housing.

Coun. Bruce Buruma believes more flexibility will “help us grow Red Deer,” economically.

Girardin has been consulting with local developers as well as the Chamber of Commerce to get feedback, including what hurdles can be eliminated to make the permitting process easier.

A new Land Use Bylaw would prepare the City of Red Deer for future building trends and market demands. Besides providing a wider variety of housing choices, the new bylaw will aim to consolidate some zonings to simplify development, adding new uses to nearly all areas, standardize some discretionary uses, and consider compatible mixed-uses — such as commercial-residential districts and home occupations.