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Victoria the only city to pass B.C. home-building target so far

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Under the province’s new housing targets, Victoria was tasked with creating 659 new units within the first year.

“We hit 753, which is more than what we were expected to get, and we did it in six months, which was fantastic,” said Marianne Alto, the mayor of Victoria.

Out of the 10 municipalities given housing targets by the province last September, the capital city is the only one to have reported exceeding its goal so far.

The 10 cities are required to present a progress report to council six months into the program.

“Some of them have been in the works for awhile, but some of them are newer,” said Alto.

When measuring cities’ progress, the province counts completed units that have been granted an occupancy permit, not new starts that began since the Housing Supply Act was announced a little over a year ago.

Casey Edge, executive director of the Victoria Home Builders Association says counting completed units “doesn’t really mean anything.”

Edge says the province has it all wrong, and should be tracking new housing starts through the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation, not completed units that could have been in the works for potentially years.

“The City of Victoria is actually down 94 per cent,” said Edge. “They had around 240 starts this time of year last year. They got about 13 right now.”

Edge says that could change very quickly if even just one large project breaks ground.

“Most of what is built in Victoria are large multi-unit buildings, so those numbers aren’t exactly indicative of what’s going to happen moving forward,” said Edge.

The City of Victoria says it has approved more than 1,600 new units that will break ground hopefully in the coming year through its streamlined approval process. It has a target of 4,902 units over the next five years.

Meanwhile, Saanich is one of the 10 municipalities that has not yet reached its goal for housing.

“We’re certainly trending towards meeting the target,” said Dean Murdock, the mayor of Saanich.

“We’re at 195 net new units against a total target for the year of 450,” said Murdock.

Saanich’s mayor calls this a long game, saying the municipality is working hard to speed-up the review and approval process. He says he’s confident the work being done now will allow the municipality to reach its five-year target of 4,600 new housing units.

“In the first six months, progress is still incremental,” said Murdock.

“I was under no illusions that the housing crisis would be solved in six months,” said Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon.

He says new legislation coming into effect by the end of June, including multi-unit legislation, will give municipalities the tools they need to build more homes faster.

“There is certainly a conversation to be had about units being built as opposed to permits being approved, that’s a conversation that’s ongoing,” said Alto.

No matter how the numbers are tallied up, Victoria says it is confident it will continue to meet its targets, bringing more housing online during a housing crisis.

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