Green MLA calls for Planning Act changes to increase housing density with backyard apartments

·2 min read
Green MLA Hannah Bell at the Legislative Assembly of P.E.I. in Charlottetown. (P.E.I. Legislative Assembly - image credit)
Green MLA Hannah Bell at the Legislative Assembly of P.E.I. in Charlottetown. (P.E.I. Legislative Assembly - image credit)

A Green MLA says the province should look into enabling Islanders to build certain types of homes without having to change zoning bylaws.

Hannah Bell said in the legislature Friday the province should consider amending the Planning Act to allow some multi-unit developments to go ahead without additional permissions from municipalities.

"Other provinces are looking at their planning legislation to ensure certain developments like duplexes, triplexes, fourplexes, townhouses can be pursued as-of-right," Bell said, which means without the need for further permits.

"This would make it easier for property owners and developers to increase density in residential areas and reduce the time frame, which is often a challenge. Is the province planning on making any similar changes to the Planning Act?"

Bell suggested allowing property owners with large backyards to build small apartments, which could then be put up for rent as a way to use the land more efficiently.

Agriculture Minister Bloyce Thompson said the province is already looking into making garden suites available as part of its planned changes to the Planning Act.

"We have to take a reasonable and responsible approach at this, Mr. Speaker, because [we need to] make sure it's done right," he said. "We will work with other departments to make sure that we can address all these issues as soon as possible."

Thompson said any situation where more multi-unit developments are built is ideal, and that the province is taking a "deep dive" into the issue of affordability.

But Bell said the province is taking too long to take any action, and that it's "failed" to provide municipalities with tools such as inclusionary zoning, which would allow them to set affordability and accessibility targets for new construction.

"Time is of the essence here. We need to be doing this yesterday," she said.

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