More folks opt­ing for coun­try life

CBRM dwelling statis­tics also show pen­chant for two-unit res­i­dences

Cape Breton Post - - CAPE BRETON - BY DAVID JALA

CBRM of­fi­cials have ac­knowl­edged that the in­creas­ing trend of build­ing new houses in ru­ral ar­eas is leav­ing ser­viced ur­ban lots un­der­uti­lized and un­der­funded.

In a re­cent pre­sen­ta­tion to mu­nic­i­pal coun­cil, Cape Bre­ton Re­gional Mu­nic­i­pal­ity plan­ner Karen Neville un­veiled statis­tics that also showed a chang­ing de­mo­graphic in terms of the kind and size of build­ings that peo­ple want to in­habit.

She said there con­tin­ues to be an in­crease in the de­mand for smaller, two-unit dwellings, dozens of which have sprang up across the mu­nic­i­pal­ity in the past few years.

Neville said that while the CBRM en­cour­ages res­i­den­tial devel­op­ment, the pref­er­ence for coun­try liv­ing, or at least out of the more con­gested ur­ban ar­eas, means de­vel­op­ers are pass­ing up al­ready ser­viced lots in the larger com­mu­ni­ties and that the lower den­sity trans­lates to less peo­ple to pay for the same amount of ser­vices.

She cites four rea­sons why more peo­ple are choos­ing to build in non-ser­viced ru­ral ar­eas.

“The cost of de­vel­op­ing on a build­ing lot in a ru­ral area can be less ex­pen­sive than a ser­viced area, the re­gional road net­work makes it easy for peo­ple to com­mute from one com­mu­nity to an­other, much of our ru­ral area has at­trac­tive land­scapes and peo­ple want to live there,” said Neville.

She added that over the past two years more than one-third (142 of 414) of the new hous­ing starts in the CBRM were con­structed or placed on lots in ar­eas with no mu­nic­i­pal ser­vices.

“We are evolv­ing into an in­ef­fi­cient land­scape in which we pro­vide mu­nic­i­pal ser­vices while a sig­nif­i­cant part of our in­fra­struc­ture is ag­ing and po­ten­tially has high main­te­nance costs,” said Neville, adding the trend is lead­ing to an in­creased cost per per­son to main­tain ex­ist­ing ser­vices like wa­ter, sew­ers and roads.

CBRM plan­ning di­rec­tor Mal­colm Gillis has also ex­pressed con­cerns on the mat­ter and sug­gested the in­creas­ingly pop­u­lar mini homes, also known as pre­fab­ri­cated or mo­bile homes, could be an op­tion to fill some of the va­cant ser­viced ur­ban lots.

“These lots are va­cant, and I think it’s a win-win for the af­ford­able hous­ing con­cern and for the need for this mu­nic­i­pal­ity to get more lat­er­als con­nected to our ser­vice in­fra­struc­ture,” he said.

Mean­while, some of those va­cant lots are be­ing filled by the also pop­u­lar two-unit dwelling or du­plex.

Ac­cord­ing to Neville, two-unit build­ings now com­prise 26 per cent of the mu­nic­i­pal­ity’s more than 41,000 res­i­den­tial struc­tures. That’s up from 15 per cent in 2005 when the mu­nic­i­pal plan­ning strat­egy was im­ple­mented thus al­low­ing du­plexes to be con­structed in more parts of the CBRM.

“That pol­icy per­mits two-unit dwellings as a right in all res­i­den­tial zones — in ad­di­tion, we’re see­ing a trend with many in our ag­ing pop­u­la­tion choos­ing to be renters rather than home­own­ers and that also makes the twounit dwelling a great op­tion for them,” said Neville, who is part of the city hall team cur­rently re­vis­ing the plan­ning strat­egy.

The statis­tics also showed that the per­cent­age of peo­ple liv­ing in apart­ments in­creased slightly from 11.6 per cent to 14.8 per cent be­tween 2005 and 2017, while the per­cent­age of peo­ple re­sid­ing in sin­gle de­tached homes fell from 73 per cent to 58 per cent.

Mean­while, the pop­u­la­tion of the CBRM de­clined from 105,928 in 2006 to 98,722 in 2017.

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