Kings, N.S., bylaw amendments aim to increase housing, help ease crisis

Kings, N.S., bylaw amendments aim to increase housing, help ease crisis

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KING’S COUNTY – To help alleviate a housing shortage, owners of residential properties in designated growth centres in Kings County could be allowed to add secondary units.

Following a public hearing in October, municipal council approved land use bylaw (LUB) amendments that could allow for more secondary or accessory housing units under certain circumstances.

The units could be attached to a main residence in the Residential One Unit (R1) Zone or be new, standalone garden or in-law suites.

Changes have also been made in the Residential One and Two Unit (R2) Zone. This zone has traditionally allowed a maximum of two units per lot. The number of buildings permitted would depend on the size and shape of individual lots.

In January 2022, in response to the ongoing housing shortage in Nova Scotia, council directed planning staff to investigate various options to help ease the crisis by providing more residential units in Kings County.

The chief administrative officer was instructed to have staff prepare amendments that would enable accessory dwellings within growth centres.

During the council discussion, Mayor Peter Muttart asked what would happen to tenants in the case that the titled owner of the main and secondary residential units decided to sell. Using the example of someone aging in place or a young person who couldn’t afford to live elsewhere, unless they had leases that were very secure, the renters could be put off the property.

“The other thing that occurred to me is whether this will be taken as an opportunity for commercial investors to acquire a property, build a second house and use both houses for rental properties, and whether or not that is a desired outcome in residential neighbourhoods,” Muttart said.

Kings County Mayor Peter Muttart says he wonders if Land Use Bylaw amendments that enable secondary housing units in residential zones within the municipality’s growth centres could be taken as an opportunity for commercial investors to acquire a property, build a second house and use both for rental properties. File photo
Kings County Mayor Peter Muttart says he wonders if Land Use Bylaw amendments that enable secondary housing units in residential zones within the municipality’s growth centres could be taken as an opportunity for commercial investors to acquire a property, build a second house and use both for rental properties. File photo

He said another aspect that worries him a bit is whether there has been adequate consultation with the public or village commissions within affected growth centres.

“My inclination would be to delay approval until we had fully considered those things,” Muttart said.

Deputy Mayor Emily Lutz said she initially felt a bit hesitant about the amendments, but she is comforted in the fact that they apply only to growth centres.

“It’s hard to imagine what it will look like when we have no idea what uptake will be, if it’s going to meet the intended purposes — providing additional housing stock in the Annapolis Valley and in Kings County — which is something we’re obviously keeping front of mind,” Lutz said.

Adding density in residential zones

The changes relate to 12 designated growth centres in the County of Kings. They include Aylesford, Cambridge, Canning, Centreville, Coldbrook, Greenwood, Hants Border, Kingston, New Minas, North Kentville, Port Williams, and Waterville.

The municipality is also working to increase the number of units permitted within buildings located on single lots in multi-unit (R3 and R4) zones. These changes would apply to the same 12 growth centres and could be of interest to people considering the construction of apartment buildings.

A staff report states that increasing the type of housing that can be built within growth centres would enable more housing to be built in areas with existing services, such as water and sewer. Putting more ratepayers on existing municipal infrastructure would make services more efficient to operate.

Kings County Deputy Mayor Emily Lutz said she was initially hesitant about Land Use Bylaw amendments that enable accessory housing units on residential properties that meet certain conditions but is comforted that the changes apply only to designated growth centres. File photo
Kings County Deputy Mayor Emily Lutz said she was initially hesitant about Land Use Bylaw amendments that enable accessory housing units on residential properties that meet certain conditions but is comforted that the changes apply only to designated growth centres. File photo

The R1 and R2 zones in Kings County currently occupy more than 5,005 acres of land within the municipality. This represents about 61 per cent of the total land area with a residential designation and 34 per cent of land within growth centres.

“Limiting residential development on 61 per cent of the land available for residential development is not the best utilization of the municipality’s resources to assist in easing the housing crisis,” the report states.

Increasing residential densities in growth centres will help relieve the demand for housing, thereby delaying the need to expand growth centres, in turn helping to protect outlying agricultural land, council heard.


Lot sizes and building setbacks

Within the R1 zone, property owners will be limited to one additional dwelling, so long as the property has the required lot area. For the R1, R2, and R3 zones, the required lot area is 2,000 square feet per unit.

Setback requirements for accessory buildings would be applied unless the entrance to the accessory dwelling is to be in the side or rear yard. In these situations, an increased setback of 10 feet would be required.

Grouped dwellings have been added to the list of permitted uses in the R2 zone. These are defined as two or more single or double-unit dwellings located on the same lot.

In October, Kings County Coun. Joel Hirtle asked his colleagues to consider declaring a housing crisis and to temporarily suspend bylaws to allow year-round occupancy of RVs to help alleviate a housing shortage. File photo
In October, Kings County Coun. Joel Hirtle asked his colleagues to consider declaring a housing crisis and to temporarily suspend bylaws to allow year-round occupancy of RVs to help alleviate a housing shortage. File photo

These would be subject to the same zone requirements for grouped dwellings in the Residential Mixed Density (R3) and Residential Multi-Unit (R4) zones. They require 20-foot front yard, four-foot side yard, and 20-foot rear yard setbacks.

Building height permissions remain consistent with the R2 zone, 35 feet for main buildings. The total number of units would be restricted by the lot area, as each residential unit is required to have 2,000 square feet.

For more information, call County of Kings Planning and Development staff at 902-690-6152.


Need to know

The Province of Nova Scotia is offering a program that could provide loans to homeowners who create an affordable secondary suite on their property.

Under the program, affordable housing is defined as housing where the rent is below the average market rent for the location.

Funding is available for up to 50 per cent of eligible project costs to a maximum of $25,000. The applicant must fund the remaining balance of the project.

The funding provides a forgivable loan. Terms of up to five years are available. Funding for more than one secondary or backyard suite may be available if allowed by the municipality.

For more information or to apply, visit the Secondary and Backyard Suite Incentive Program website.


Status of RVs

At the October committee of the whole session, Coun. Joel Hirtle asked his colleagues to declare a housing crisis in the municipality, and to consider relaxing bylaws to allow people to live year-round in RVs or campers.

He said it would be a temporary measure to allow people with no other housing option to stay in campers over the cold winter months. The bylaw suspension would make it so that people in such circumstances wouldn’t have to fear enforcement action or legal repercussions from the municipality.

Staff suggested a motion, that council direct the chief administrative officer (CAO) to provide a briefing at the next regular meeting of council to address issues related to the use of RVs in light of the housing crisis. The motion carried.

Deputy CAO Rob Frost said the matter was further discussed in-camera on Nov. 6. The only motion coming out of the closed-door session was for council to instruct staff to prepare and release up-to-date information on the municipality’s response to the housing crisis.



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