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Saanich's Nellie McClung Library rezoned for affordable housing

Rezoning allows new development that would double the size of the library and add up to 210 affordable rental units on top
Saanich council has approved rezoning for the Nellie McClung Library site, paving the way for the building to be replaced with a structure that will be up to 18 storeys and include both a new library and over 200 affordable rental apartments.

Saanich council made a significant step forward on Monday (June 10) to bringing to life a 200-plus unit affordable rental housing project and new library on district land.

"This is our best foot forward," Mayor Dean Murdock said in a Wednesday afternoon phone call with Black Press Media, "using a municipally owned asset to create affordable housing in our community,"

At the Monday meeting, councillors unanimously approved rezoning for the Nellie McClung Library site on the corner of Cedar Hill Road and McKenzie Avenue to allow for a building of up to 18 storeys with up to 210 apartments on the upper floors and an expanded library on the bottom.

The project will still need to go through more steps, including development and building permits, but this approves the use in principal. Funding for the new library — which could be roughly double the size of the current one — is to come from the district, while the money for the apartments is to come from BC Housing and the Capital Regional Housing Corporation.

"I think it's a model that is going to be an effective one going forward," Murdock said. "All levels of government need to work together to create true affordability in our community."

The old library building will need to be torn down, and the library operation temporarily moved.

"Staff are working now on identifying a temporary site," Murdock said. 

The housing units will be divided into a few categories of affordability, ranging from deep subsidy units for people with very low income such as those on income assistance, to units for people with more moderate incomes that rent closer to market rates.

Under the terms of a grant for the project from the BC Community Housing Fund, 70 per cent of the units must be used for rent geared to income, and must be kept that way for at least 50 years or the life of the building, whichever is less.

"That means people who otherwise would not be able to find a home in this part of our community will be able to put down roots and build a life," Murdock said.

According to new provincial development rules, because this development is already consistent with the new Official Community Plan it does not require a public hearing.

There was little opposition to the project in council and the sentiment before the vote was universally positive.

"I'm thrilled," said Coun. Nathalie Chambers.



About the Author: Mark Page

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