Tim Collins/News staff
One of the most readily identifiable consequences of the dearth of affordable housing on the peninsula may be the number of help wanted signs in the windows of local businesses, according to Central Saanich Councillor Alicia Holman.
“We want to have a community in which service personnel and others in the lower and middle income levels can still live in the community in which they work. Right now, that’s often not the case,” said Holman.
The 2015/16 Saanich Peninsula Affordable Housing Needs Assessment showed 44 per cent of renter households on the Saanich Peninsula are spending more than 30 per cent of household income on shelter costs and 20 per cent are spending in excess of 50 per cent of household income on shelter costs. Those numbers mean there are nearly 4,000 individuals and families on the peninsula that require better access to affordable housing.
“It’s one of the things that first motivated me to run for council and I recall that, when I was first elected, I got a call from an elderly woman who was aware of my advocacy for affordable housing. She was very emotional and said that I might be her angel,” recounted Holman.
“She told me how there were lots of times when she had to make the choice between paying her rent or buying food or a bus pass. That should never be the case.”
Mayor Ryan Windsor agrees, but acknowledged that the question of affordable housing is a complex issue without any easy fixes.
“We are involved in the Regional Housing Trust Fund of the CRD and, although there have been no projects in Central Saanich, the overall issue is still being addressed,” said Windsor.
He said that, on a local level, Central Saanich Council is doing what it can to improve the housing situation, having recently approved a 40-unit project by the Greater Victoria Housing Society (GVHS) for low rental housing. He added that the municipality remains open to more applications from the society and others to create even more affordable housing opportunities.
“I can tell you that we feel welcome in the (Central Saanich) community and are hoping to be able to bring forward more projects to council for future projects. We also recognize that we have a responsibility to bring forward good projects and to be sensitive to existing community residents who may be resistant to the idea of more densified housing,” said Kaye Melliship, executive director of the GVHS.
“If we develop a good reputation in the community, it’s far more likely that other developers will be looking for us to partner in housing initiatives,” she said, adding that the society is already in discussions with another developer that may be interested in partnering on an additional 90 unit complex, 40 of which would be operated by the GVHS.
Windsor also pointed to the recent re-zoning approval for Marigold Development, located on Lochside Drive. That proposal, while not rent controlled housing, will add approximately 240 additional housing units to the inventory in Central Saanich.
“The truth is that, if you want to have a healthy community you need a situation where people can live in the same community where they work. That’s why, I think, the merchants in Brentwood Bay were very supportive of our development. It was for exactly that reason,” said Melliship.
Central Saanich has called for a one-time tri-municipal meeting of the Saanich Peninsula mayors and councils to be held in September where the issue of affordable housing will be further discussed with a view to developing a coordinated approach to the issue.