Victoria backs away from aggressive affordable housing policy, but concerns linger
CTV Vancouver Island
Published Friday, November 9, 2018 6:04PM PST
Last Updated Friday, November 9, 2018 6:44PM PST
There are fears that Victoria council's bold new plan for affordable housing could lead to developers setting their sights on other cities.
In the first council meeting since municipal elections were held Oct. 20, councillors Jeremy Loveday and Ben Isitt proposed a dramatic shift in the way strata developments are built to help solve the city's affordable housing crisis.
"One way to help achieve that is mandating affordable units in all new developments, so that's what we've been working on," Loveday said.
Loveday had proposed that 10 to 15 per cent of units in all new condo developments be reserved for affordable rentals.
That idea was walked back slightly at the Thursday night meeting, with council voting 8-1 in favour of an interim policy that would still encourage housing affordability in B.C.'s capital.
"Any developer who's coming to build strata housing in the City of Victoria will have to include an affordability component," said Loveday.
That component could either include units of affordable housing in the development or cash in lieu that would be put toward building affordable rentals elsewhere.
But there are serious concerns from developers who say that the interim policy could still drive them to other communities.
"I think in the short term this interim policy will have the effect of essentially drying up applications," said Adam Cooper of Abstract Developments Inc.
Cooper said without clear guidelines on how many affordable units would be mandated for new projects, or how much cash in lieu would be required, developers will hold off building.
He said worse still, if developers are eventually required to put 10 to 15 per cent affordable units in new builds, those developers might take their projects to places like Saanich and Esquimalt instead.
"We're in the business of making good business decisions," he said. "If it doesn't make sense for us to build housing in Victoria, that's what will happen."
The one councillor who voted against the interim policy, Geoff Young, echoed Cooper's concerns.
"I think it's a very likely consequence," Young said.
Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps appeared more hesitant about the policy, saying the city must avoid driving developments to other communities.
"It would be very bad policy to bring in a housing policy that will drive housing development out of Victoria," she said. "That's not what I want, and that's not what I'm aiming for."
A finalized affordable housing policy is expected to be decided by city council sometime in March 2019.