Our commitment to excellence has been recognized with more than 50 local and national awards for design, customer care and development planning. Building thoughtful communities requires dedicated resources at the ground level. I am proud to lead our community engagement efforts at Abstract Developments and am responsible for partnering with community associations, neighbours, municipal staff and local politicians to get our developments through the local government approval processes.
What do you think are the top three factors impacting the delivery of attainable housing in the Capital Region?
- The time it takes to get a project approved. In my experience it is between 24 and 30 months.
- Outdated Local Area Plans. We have not planned appropriately for the growth we are facing and seldom do we see crowds of cheering supporters showing up at Council meetings to support housing projects.
- Increasing costs. Over the past few years land and construction costs have risen rapidly and municipalities have only increased their fees and charges (Development Cost Charges, Community Amenities, etc.). Combined with the adoption of Step Code and the rollout of electric vehicle charging, municipalities are significantly increasing housing costs and forcing developers to seek higher density projects.
- Victoria: anticipates an additional 2,900 new households between 2020 and 2025. This translates to an additional 483 homes per year until the end of 2025.
- Saanich: anticipates an additional 3,049 new households between 2020 and 2025. This translates to an additional 508 homes per year until the end of 2025.
- Allow 4 to 6 units of housing on every single-family lot in the City. This is an attempt to tackle the “Missing Middle” housing problem, by creating opportunities for infill development in established neighbourhoods. I am very encouraged by this and hope other jurisdictions will follow suit. If we want to deliver more housing in a sustainable way, we cannot continue to have the vast majority of our land based dedicated to the most expensive and least sustainable form of housing.
- Eliminate Parking minimums. Victoria is recognizing the cost of providing parking is a major contributor to overall housing costs, averaging between $50-$60,000 per underground parking stall. They City is looking to shift their policy focus toward an outcome-based approach that aligns with the vision they have for the future of the city and transportation. Developers who wish to provide more parking than the maximum allowable would be required to pay into a green infrastructure fund that would be directed to improving public transit, as well as walking and cycling facilities. As I am Transportation Planner in a past life and someone who is passionate about bikes, I do appreciate the vision, but have some concerns about whether buyers are ready to accept a no car lifestyle. Over time I believe we will be able to move in this direction.
- Eliminate Public Hearings. The city is exploring the opportunity to eliminate public hearings for projects that are in alignment with the Official Community Plan. My understanding is they would begin this as a pilot for affordable housing and then would look at expanding to rental and / or market housing depending on how the community reacts to this approach.
Personally, I think this is the right way to move forward. We should be encouraging residents to engage at the time the plans are being developed, not when a project comes forward to Council for consideration. We should have the debate and the tough discussions when plans are being developed and then after we agree what is appropriate, allow the projects to move through the process. This would save developers considerable time in the process, add certainty, and hopefully allow for the supply we need to be created.
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Northern Junk, Capital Iron lands and Victoria real-estate development Q&A with Jon Stovell of Reliance Properties