An advocacy group says Saanich’s municipal budget undermines housing affordability.
“Many on this council included housing affordability in their election platforms and now seem unable to grasp how this sort of tax increase affects that,” said Laurie and Bruce Kennedy of the Grumpy Taxpayer$ of Greater Victoria. They made this statement after Saanich council signed off on its 2019 budget. It raises revenues from property taxes by 5.37 per cent, with 27 per cent of the additional revenue flowing towards Saanich’s share of the Employers Health Tax (EHT).
“This increase will be directly borne by renters including students as well as the struggling homeowner who simply wants their own property to call home,” said the Kennedys. “It is shocking how many of the councillors have forgotten their pledges during the campaign.”
This argument echoes concerns from Coun. Ned Taylor, who called the tax lift “significant” and predicted that it would have a negative impact on affordability for not only homeowners, but also renters. “It’s affecting affordable housing, it’s affecting the affordability of this municipality,” he said.
Other observers have also raised the issue of housing affordability.
“Many residents who have been calling for immediate action to address the housing crisis will be disappointed with this budget,” said Teale Phelps Bondaroff, a former councillor candidate, who remains involved in a number of local community initiatives. “Saanich is not being proactive in tackling the housing crisis. A district without a shelter or proactive plan on housing access and affordability, and which is looking at increasing the number of parks with overnight shelter bans, is not taking the housing crisis seriously.”
Members of the council have defended the budget generally and its approach towards housing specifically. Coun. Colin Plant noting that council transferred $500,000 from budget surplus towards affordable housing in a strategic reserve fund.
#Saanich Council places $500k of our budget surplus from 2018 towards affordable housing in a strategic reserve fund. This action shows our Council’s priorities and I’m proud it was passed unanimously. #yyjpoli
— Colin Plant (@ColinPlant2018) March 27, 2019
“This action shows our [council]’s priorities and I’m proud it was passed unanimously,” he said in a tweet.