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Victoria apartment building for hospitality workers moves closer to reality

Tourism is a major contributor to the B.C. capital region's economy, just behind the tech sector.

“It’s a billion-dollar industry,” said Bill Lewis, chair of the Hotel Association of Greater Victoria. “Tens of thousands of jobs directly in the hospitality industry.”

Historically a lower-paying sector, the capital's soaring housing costs have created a worker shortage in the industry.

“We’re all short a few positions in a lot of areas,” said Lewis.

The problem is exacerbated by online rental accommodations like Airbnb and Vrbo, pulling potential housing out of the market.

Those online accommodation platforms have been paying a special tax since 2018.

“The communities could choose to [put the tax money] towards marketing and promotion, which is our day job, which is what we use our hotel tax for, or to put it towards affordable housing initiatives,” said Paul Nursey, CEO of Destination Greater Victoria.

Destination Greater Victoria has been collecting that tax and funneling it into an affordable housing fund with the City of Victoria.

“This morning we saw our first application to use that,” said Victoria Mayor Marianne Alto.

On Thursday, Victoria council voted to move forward with a plan to use $2.5 million of the $2.8 million pot to contribute to a 40-unit affordable rental building proposed for Quadra Village.

That building would be built by the Greater Victoria Housing Society and priority would be given to those working in the hospitality industry.

“They are going to put that in the application process. They’ll screen for that and make sure that they are actually bonafide hotel and hospitality workers,” said Nursey.

“It’s an interesting initiative. It’s really positive for the hospitality industry,” said Doug King, executive director at the Together Against Poverty Society.

King says any housing is good housing, potentially freeing up other rental units throughout the region.

He says the affordability issue in the region can’t be solved by building more units alone and that the province needs to bring in vacancy control.

“Which means in between a tenancy, when one tenant leaves and a new one enters, the rent can’t be increased,” said King. “That’s really what we need in British Columbia.”

For an industry facing a major labour hurdle, it’s hoped that the new building will offer some reprieve because the soaring cost of housing shows no signs of letting up. Top Stories

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