City aims to create thousands of rental units

The City of Victoria hopes to create close to 3,000 new market and affordable rental units over the next decade.

The City of Victoria hopes to create close to 3,000 new market and affordable rental units over the next decade, as part of a new affordable municipal housing plan.

The Victoria Housing Strategy, which was approved during a meeting last Thursday, focuses on creating affordable housing for residents, and includes a number of actions to achieve those targets by 2026.

The city hopes to create 2,300 market rental units, 100 of which are for families, and 800 affordable rental units, of which 450 are for families.

According to a staff report put forward to council, the city’s official community plan forecasts the city will need an additional 13,500 apartment units and an additional 2,700 ground-oriented units to accommodate an increase in population by another 20,000 residents by 2041.

The number of seniors is also expected to increase from 17 per cent to 29 per cent of the total population, while the number of children and young adults is anticipated to decline.

As part the strategy, the city has three priorities: increasing the supply of attainable housing for low to moderate income households, encouraging the diversity of house types, tenures and prices across the city, and building awareness and partnerships for affordable housing through communication, education and advocacy.

The priorities also include initiatives to permit smaller units within mulit-unit developments, more secondary and garden suites, reducing parking requirements for affordable housing projects, revisiting the secondary suite grant program for accessible suites that serve an aging population, and creating an inventory of existing affordable rental stock.

“This is not just an issue of housing affordability, it’s also an issue of our economy. Tourism has said housing is not affordable, VIATECH has said housing is not affordable,” said Mayor Lisa Helps. “We need to take this seriously, not only looking at it through the lens of housing affordability, but supporting our arts community, so we can have creativity and innovation in the arts. Housing has to do with the economy and I want us to be focused on that as well.”

The strategy comes at a time when there is a growing house crisis in the city. Currently, the average rent prices are among the highest in the region. The price of a single-family home has reached $606,600, while households are only earning between $80,000 to $150,000.

While Coun. Geoff Young voted in favour of the motion, he expressed concern about the unintended consequences of encouraging owners to rent out suites.

“We want to provide rental units, but at the same time we want the rights of those who rent them to be constantly increased, but that means the atttractivness of being a landlord is constantly decreased. Every right we give to a renter means that the flexibility and future options of owners is being reduced,” Young said. “I really think that in some cases we’re oversimplifying the issues… we’re not recognizing some of the inherent conflicts of incentives that we are creating.”