City council’s commitment to affordable housing will be given an interesting test on Monday, when councillors will have their chance to look at a rezoning proposal for the land under Kingsway Trailer Kort.
As reported in Friday’s Brandon Sun, residents of the trailer court, in Brandon’s south end just east of 18th Street, have been told to clear out by spring. No matter whether the proposed rezoning — from commercial to residential — goes forward or not, the dozens of residents have to vacate the land by March.
For many residents, that’s tough. Aging trailers surrounded by semi-permanent improvements like decks will be difficult — and expensive — to move.
The out-of-town development corporation that recently purchased the park is offering only the legal minimum $500 in compensation for moving expenses, which some residents say could actually top $10,000.
It’s not clear how much income the park’s owner might currently be making from lot rentals and fees, but it’s not difficult to see why a clean slate would be more attractive. Housing in the area is in the midst of an explosion, with both $400,000 houses and multi-unit apartments and condos sprouting up like weeds. Add in the rumoured Costco that’s just about cater-corner from there, and the potential is clear.
An investment brochure for developing the land, portions of which have been seen by the Sun, touts “a new standard of quality for Brandon” along with floor plans for small apartments or condominiums that are said to be “inspired by West Coast living.”
That, of course, depends on city council approving a zoning change from the current commercial to residential.
It will no doubt be tempting for some of the populists on council to side with the to-be-evicted residents, but from a legal standpoint, it appears that the land’s owners are well within their rights.
With space tight (or nonexistent) at other local trailer parks, the 50 or so Kinsgway residents are caught between the proverbial rock and a hard place.
Although trailer parks aren’t an ideal housing solution from an urban design perspective, they can — and do — fill an important niche in the city. They provide affordable, detached homes for people who want a bit of a yard, perhaps a deck, the opportunity to decorate their interior at will, and to keep pets.
City council has been banging the “affordable housing” drum for years, and the loss of these homes will deal a significant blow to those efforts.
Although the rezoning bylaw in front of council on Monday is just up for first reading — which means there is no discussion or debate at this stage — councillors should surely be aware that this will be a contentious issue.
In particular, we’ll be keeping our eyes on area councillor Stephen Montague, who may be forced to make a choice between his populist talk and his pro-developer walk.
It will also be interesting to see how Mayor Shari Decter Hirst handles this hot potato. Not only does it pit Brandon voters against moneyed out-of-town companies, it is also another case of heavy developer interest in Brandon’s south end — which must be particularly irksome for the mayor, who is pressing to develop more of the North Hill.
Politically, it may be a losing issue no matter what happens.
But it seems clear that the real losers are the families being turfed, unceremoniously, from their homes.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition August 17, 2013