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7,000-unit under-supply of homes in the City of Victoria has mayor advocating fewer political obstacles to development

A Harbour Air float plane nears touchdown on gthe waters of the Inner Harbour, with the City of Victoria's Vic West neighbourhood in the background.  Citified.ca

7,000-unit under-supply of homes in the City of Victoria has mayor advocating fewer political obstacles to development
MIKE KOZAKOWSKI, CITIFIED.CA
Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps says the City of Victoria is 7,000 housing units short for existing residents of the municipality, and is advocating for council’s removal from the approvals process for new housing proposals already in line with the Official Community Plan (OCP).
 
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Mayor Helps penned a post on her website calling for changes to provincial regulations that align with the Canada-BC Expert Panel on the Future of Housing Supply recommending elected officials not be required to conduct public hearings and render yay or nay decisions for projects seeking to conform to the OCP, as well as for the City to update its zoning designations to align with the OCP.
 
The outcome of such changes, Helps says, would remove two barriers to delivering new housing expediently and efficiently.
 
“This means that there will be no political decisions and no public input for new housing on a development-by-development basis, as long as proposed new homes fit with what the OCP envisions,” Helps wrote. “While it may feel to some that these changes will cut the public out of the process, what they’re meant to do is a open up a more robust and vision-oriented public dialogue that happens as OCPs and design guidelines are developed and as City-initiated rezonings come forward.”
 
As part of the above plan, municipal staff would liaise with developers to ensure proposals meet guidelines.
 
The mayor cited the Victoria’s Housing Future study that identified, as per the 2016 Canada Census, the municipality’s housing stock to be 4,500-to-6,300-units of housing short “for the people who are already living here.” The study cites fewer adults forming their own households, with some 1,400-units required to meet declining household sizes, over 2,300 households living in domiciles too small for their needs, a tight rental market lacking 800-1,500-units of purpose-built suites, a 1,200-household lag in households to fill available job vacancies, and un-housed persons which were identified to number 1,300 at the time of the study.
 
“This estimated housing gap of between 4,500 and 6,300 homes for existing residents is based on these factors. It’s likely a conservative estimate of how much catching up is needed,” Helps says. “According to ‘Victoria’s Housing Future,’ ‘Even if 7000 units were added to the market today, we’d likely still feel some of the same pressures we’re already facing.’”
 
Helps continues, suggesting that "until [the City of Victoria closes] the 7,000-unit gap," elected officials "should not be allowed to turn down any proposal for new homes that fits within the City’s Official Community Plan."
 
Further to the Victoria’s Housing Future study, the existing OCP is expected to fall short by 20-30% of needed housing by 2041, inferring a requirement for a city-wide re-think of existing zoning limitations by encouraging higher densities where present-day low densities exist, while discouraging low density development.
 
“Shifting more of the city’s limited land base from traditional residential to urban residential doesn’t mean drastically changing the character of our neighbourhoods. It means doing more with our limited land base. And, it means doing this in order to meet not only our housing targets but also our climate goals. If we don’t make more room for housing in the city, what will happen is what is happening – more forests will be destroyed to build housing in the suburbs,” Helps said.
 
According to Citified’s data tracking of active high density construction throughout the Capital Region, there are just over 1,000-units of condominiums under construction within the City of Victoria, with a further 940-units of purpose-built rental homes.
 
In June, Victoria Real-Estate Board figures showed the City of Victoria’s average cost of a single-family home topped $1.2 million, while the regional average was a record-breaking $1.22 million. Condominiums sold for an average of nearly $540,000 region-wide. C
 
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