As I have been sharing for a while, the City of Saskatoon has created a Housing Action Plan in alignment with the Federal Government's Housing Accelerator Fund. The Action Plan and the Fund are intended to speed up housing development and improve the quantity, variety, and affordability of housing in Saskatoon.

Several major regulation changes are being debated at a Council Meeting on June 27th. The changes are broad and somewhat multi-layered.

I have created a video to help outline the proposed changes and will do my best to outline them here as well. 

Both the video and content below are based on materials available on the saskatoon.ca/haf webpage. This is the same material presented at the information sessions earlier this month. Full bylaws for consideration are available through the agenda package here.

What is the Housing Accelerator Fund (HAF)?

The HAF is a funding agreement between the Federal Government and municipalities. It is intended to speed up housing development and increase supply. The City of Saskatoon will receive $41.3 million to implement the housing initiatives outlined in our Housing Action Plan. The plan supports the building of 940 new housing units over three years that are additional to those that would normally have been constructed.

In February, Saskatoon signed an agreement with the federal government to receive $41 M under this program. Several actions related to it have already been progressed, and now Council needs to approve the zoning changes to allow for more housing units in order to reduce barriers to building and continue to receive the funding. The deadline to make these zoning changes is this summer.

Why do we need to be accelerating the development of housing? 
Saskatoon is growing rapidly, and we are struggling to meet the housing needs of all residents. In 2023, Saskatoon grew by 14,000 but only saw 2600 new units built. Rental vacancy rates are now below 2%, rental costs increased 9% over the last year, and all of Saskatoon's shelters are operating at or above capacity.

The HAF will support the creation of new units through a combination of incentives, improved processes, partnerships, and policy changes. The zoning changes will facilitate the development of more multi-family developments and facilitate multi-storey housing in walkable areas and areas near transit corridors to make use of existing infrastructure and encourage more financially and environmentally sustainable city growth over time.


What are the HAF initiatives ?
The initiatives are outlined at high level here. This page will focus on the zoning changes required for the first two actions under the "Add new missing
middle housing and expand options within neighbourhoods" initiative.

What zoning changes are being proposed?

In Phase 2, which will be considered at the June 27th meeting, the following changes are proposed: 

  • Allowing up to four-units of residential development on a minimum 50 foot (15 m) lot in a residential zoning district and applying appropriate development standards, including setbacks and site coverage limitations.
    • Presently, most 50 foot lots can be subdivided, and those 25 foot lots are permitted to have 3 units each. So the proposed change would not increase the allowable density in most areas - just the appearance of those units. 
    • In 'established neighbourhoods' (all Ward 2 neighbourhoods), four-unit developments will be limited by Infill Regulations which limit the development to 8.5m in height and 40% site coverage. This Infill regulations will not apply within 250m of Transit corridors, and on corner sites in areas within 800m of Transit Corridors. 
    • Please watch the video for more information on how the Corridor areas are planned and how different regulations are proposed to apply. Maps can be found here under Proposed Amendments > Permitting up to 4 dwelling units per site in all residential zoning districts > Infill regulations map
  • Adopting Corridor maps into the OCP as the vision for general densification around Transit Corridors and stops.
  • Adding a 'Transit Development Area' alongside the 'Corridor Growth Area' around Transit corridors. For background about Corridor planning, and how these maps will be adopted and what that means, please review the video here. The Corridor framework is being adopted in the Official Community Plan (OCP) document as visionary, and not adopted into zoning at this time. Rezoning applications in alignment to that vision would be accepted in the future. The zoning amendment proposals below layer on top of this framework and these OCP maps.
    • The corridors in Ward 2 are Idylwyld Drive North and 22nd Street West
      • The transit stops planned on these corridors are at: 
        • 22nd Street West: @ Ave C, Ave H, Ave P, Ave W
        • Idylwyld Drive North: @ 29th St, 33rd St 
  • Allowing up to four-storey multiple-unit development within 800 metres of a planned bus rapid transit station with appropriate development standards and servicing capacity. A new planning area called the Transit Development Area (TDA) identifies the area within which four-storey multiple-unit development will be permitted.
    • Within the proposed Corridor Residential area, minimum site width of 15 metres and a maximum permitted height of 15 metres or four storeys is proposed. Measures to mitigate massing* will be required for sites abutting a low-density residential use. Site coverage is a maximum of 50% (60% on corners).
    • In other parts of the Transit Development Area, multi-unit dwellings will be permitted where the site is on an arterial or collector street and the site is a minimum of 21 m. In this area, buildings will have a maximum height of four storeys, and measures to mitigate massing* will be required if the site is next to low density or single-family properties.
    • To see a map of the areas involved, please follow this link
    • More details here under Proposed Amendments > Permitting 4-storey residential development within 800 metres of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) stations
    • * Massing mitigation = designing buildings to reduce the scale of the building on a side that is next to existing low density residential. This is achieved by a stepped back design. An example of this can be found in this examples document on the last page.
  • Allowing up to six-storey multiple-unit development along Transit Corridors and near transit stations. 
    • On sites identified for Corridor Mixed Use or Station Mixed Use Land Uses, up to six storeys or 22 metres (dark purple areas) on sites with minimum 15m. No massing mitigation requirements. 
    • To see a map of the areas involved, please follow this link.

Past and future phases

  • In Phase 1, City Council approved changes to reduce barriers to the building of Accessory Dwelling Units, like secondary, garage or garden suites. This development is now permitted everywhere and alongside basement suites on the same property. This was approved in April.
  • In Phase 3, City Council will consider Removing off-street minimum parking requirements from the Zoning Bylaw for development proposals throughout the city. This is tentatively scheduled for the July meeting.

What is likely to happen if these zoning changes are adopted?
Changes to development occur gradually over time. Zoning regulation changes are proposed to continue to allow low density development to remain and be built, while also allowing the opportunity for other types of housing to be built alongside with proper development standards. Other cities that have made broad zoning changes of this type have seen gradual uptake of development opportunity. Gradual densification of existing areas can be expected, lessening pressure on inefficient greenfield development to meet growth demands. 

What happens if Council rejects the proposed changes?
The risk of Council not approving the proposed changes would be the loss of part or all of the federal funding, including potential repayment of funds that have already been dispersed. The bulk of the funding has been allocated to incentivizing affordable (below market) unit development. Calls for proposals from non-profit and other developers committed to keeping units affordable for the long term are out now.

How can I make my voice heard?
If you have questions, concerns, or would like to share your feedback with Council, you can submit feedback or request to speak at the meeting using this link. Attendees who wish to speak but did not sign up can also do so, but will be invited after the list of registered speakers. Council will deliberate these changes on Thursday, June 27th starting at 9:30 am.

 

For a more fulsome review of this material, consider watching this video which helps outline the proposed changes and includes a guide to the maps and areas most relevant in Ward 2. 

Hilary Gough

About

Saskatoon #yxe City Councillor - representing Ward 2. Settler on Treaty 6 territory & traditional homelands of the Métis. She/Her