The head of the association representing Greater Victoria builders wonders whether Saanich is serious about creating more affordable housing.
“Saanich’s claims of support for housing affordability require more credibility than have been apparent so far,” said Casey Edge, executive director of the Victoria Residential Builders Association (VRBA).
He offered this assessment against the backdrop of several policy initiatives working their way through municipal channels.
He sounds especially concerned about plans by Coun. Nathalie Chambers, who has proposed several interim measures to protect trees in Saanich that might otherwise be vulnerable without an environmental development bylaw in place.
On Monday, Saanich council will consider a report and suggestion from Chambers to have staff look at an “immediate implementation of a conservation strategy that would protect the same ecosystem assets as the environmental development permit area bylaw.”
Edge questions this idea. Saanich already has tree protection bylaw, he said, noting Chambers’ strategy would duplicate what he calls the “costly and poorly conceived [Environmental Development Permit Area] bylaw.”
Saanich council rescinded the EDPA in late 2017, only five years after its creation. (Its formal rescinding took place in April 2018).
Chambers for her part said she is not trying to replace the EDPA bylaw, but is instead looking for a series of interim measures.
Edge also reiterated his group’s opposition to Saanich’s pending introduction of the Step Code, a new voluntary building code that promises to improve energy efficiency. He also questions why Saanich considers raising development cost charges for a single detached home to $16,360, a 240 per cent increase or $11,551 extra.
Edge’s critique of Saanich happens against the backdrop of a changing climate for the construction industry.
Edge said a recent presentation from leading figures in the real estate industry reached the conclusion that the “market is undergoing moderation” that is going to shape the decisions of local builders.
“With peak land costs, declining sales, challenging and costly permit processes, and rising [government] fees, we are in a very risky environment for [speculative] home building,” he said.