Students call for changes to 'incredibly discriminatory' Saanich housing bylaw
SAANICH -- University students are campaigning to have a Saanich bylaw changed to allow for more people to live in the same household.
The students say it would help people with low incomes find a place to live in an increasingly expensive housing market.
There will be a special call-in public hearing on Saturday, June 20, in Saanich to discuss the municipal zoning bylaw. Currently, zoning bylaw 5.20 only allows for four, non-related people to live in a shared family home at one time.
The amendment would allow up to six non-related people to live in the same home, if it gets adopted.
It’s a complicated issue with many different points on either side of the argument.
Emily Lowan is the director of campaigns and community relations with the University of Victoria Student Society. She calls the bylaw unfair.
“Basically, this bylaw is incredibly discriminatory towards students, seniors and even ex-foster children,” said Lowan.
With Sannich being home to three post-secondary school campuses, there is a need for affordable housing in the municipality, says Lowan.
The UVic student says with the average cost of a one-bedroom rental in Saanich going for $1,500 a month, students need to find roommates to financially survive.
“If this gets adopted it would mean that you could live with six people in a house that you’re not related to,” said Lowan. “You’d be able share rent across a greater number of people, driving down costs in that way.”
The current bylaw has been in place since 1993 and last year it made news headlines when seven female roommates were evicted from a seven-bedroom house that they were renting near the University of Victoria.
That complaint, that ultimately got them evicted, came from a neighbour.
That’s when Saanich council asked staff to explore making changes to the bylaw, which would increase the limit from four to six.
That brings us to Saturday’s public hearing.
“I think council has an open mind on the issue,” said Saanich Mayor Fred Haynes.
He went on to say that on one side, you have students and people who aren’t able to afford to buy a house. On the other side, you have property owners.
Haynes says he has been fielding letters over the past year from both sides. Those against the changes are worried about possible noise violations, neighbourhood parking issues and unsightly premises.
“All those issues haven’t actually changed over the last 30 years that the bylaw has been in effect,” said Haynes.
Council will be listening to all sides at the public hearing Saturday, before making any final decisions on the issue.