Some residents of a west Abbotsford street are concerned about a large home being built, saying it is out of character with the neighbourhood, will attract other developers and will drive up property taxes.
The home is being constructed on Oakridge Crescent, a single-family neighbourhood that is regulated by several land-use contracts that limit housing to mobile homes. (The province has ordered municipalities to dispose of all such contracts by 2024.)
A new urban resident hybrid zone (RSH) adopted by council in 2018 permits developers to apply to have a property discharged from its land-use contract to facilitate the construction of a single-family home.
The RSH zoning restricts the height to two storeys (7.5 metres) and does not permit secondary suites.
Gerda Peachey, a 37-year resident of Oakridge Crescent, says the house under construction is in “flagrant disregard” of the zoning.
“The house is clearly three storeys and has many bathrooms, bedrooms, multiple living rooms and kitchens,” she said.
Several residents of the street appeared at a public hearing before council in 2016 to express concerns about an application that would allow a property owner to tear down a modular home and build a new house with a secondary suite.
At the time, there were around 150 modular and mobile homes in the area.
The residents said they were worried that building a larger home in their area would open the door to developers and threaten housing affordability.
Council rejected that application and later adopted the RSH zone, but Peachey said residents’ concerns from 2016 are now becoming a reality.
“My community was one last oasis of affordable housing, but people have been giving up. The writing is on the wall. What was once a humble, safe and beautiful community will be wall-to-wall monster houses that pay for themselves with the multiple hidden suites,” she said.
Robin Wintemute, who has lived on Oakridge Crescent for 15 years, said her property taxes already took a big jump last year.
“When I contacted the mayor about it, I was simply told that houses on that street are selling for $700,000 and up. But what the city does not seem to care about is that the increase hurts a lot of people on the street because many are on fixed incomes,” Wintemute said.
“This is what the developers are pushing for. If they can push those people out, they will be able to develop the area into a more expensive area … Pushing old people out of their homes does not sit well with me.”
Another resident, who did not want to be named, described the home as “so disgustingly and ridiculously huge,” saying that it “towers over the two-storey one next to it and has yet to put the roof on.”
Meanwhile, city spokesperson Aletta Vanderheyden said the city has been receiving concerns about the home under construction, but it complies with the RSH zoning.
She said the lower floor with a garage is partially exposed and meets the definition of a basement under the bylaw; therefore, it is not considered a storey.
“The basement is fully exposed at the street elevation due to the slope of the lot. Conversely, new homes built on the other side of the street will have the reverse, with two storeys facing the street and a fully exposed basement at the rear of the home,” Vanderheyden said.
She said the home is also not breaching any bylaws by including multiple bathrooms and more than one kitchen, “as long as the square footage of the floor-space ratio, of which the basement is exempt, is limited to 50 per cent of the lot area.”
Vanderheyden said the city can only take action for having a secondary suite if that area is inaccessible by the rest of the home.
“Action by the city can include requiring the owner to dismantle the space that does not meet the zoning, which was what was done on Sunnyhill Crescent this past year when a home was not in compliance,” she said.
Vanderheyden said building inspectors will continue to visit the site to ensure the construction complies with the approved drawings, the issued building permit and the zoning bylaw.