The head of the association representing builders in Greater Victoria says it is early too tell whether a proposed forum on housing will have any impact on housing affordability in the region.
Casey Edge, executive director of the Victoria Residential Builders Association (VRBA), says it depends on the receptiveness of elected officials and their ability to translate received information into action.
“Victoria has held multiple housing forums but little changes,” said Edge. “I haven’t heard of many housing forums in Langford where they have the most efficient development processes and most affordable housing, having built 60 per cent of rentals in the CRD and 40 per cent of all new housing.”
Edge made these comments in response to plans for a housing forum spearheaded by Coun. Zac de Vries along with other members of council as part of an informal working group.
The forum “would bring together community and industry expertise to identify challenges to increasing housing availability and housing affordability in Saanich, and opportunities to address them.” Its timing, however, remains uncertain, because council referred the matter to its next meeting on May 6 — two days after the scheduled forum — because staff told council that they lacked time to secure a facilitator under Saanich’s procurement policy.
The forum has also been the source of controversy after Coun. Nathalie Chambers accused some of her colleagues of secrecy. “This item [the housing forum] was not a resolution by council,” said Chambers. “It was an initiative formed outside of council. It was not in the public eye. We did not debate it. I did not approve the housing forum.”
Other members of council, including de Vries, as well as councillors not part of the working group, questioned Chambers’ charge.
“It is not secretive as a councillor to develop an idea, in this case a vision for a housing forum, and bring it in a report to a public meeting for open discussion,” said de Vries. “If we are going to address the pressing issues facing our community councillors need to exercise agency, develop ideas and bring them to the council chambers.”
Edge, for this part, did not directly address this dispute between Chambers and de Vries, but forums of this sort have been common in other municipalities.
“[Coun]. Chambers would likely benefit from such an event because she has already voted to raise housing costs significantly during her short term on council, and erode affordability for her residents,” he said.
VRBA also levelled that charge at de Vries in a tweet.
“#Saanich’s current path has not been able to deliver affordability. So I am turning to the community to look for solutions.” But before asking for solutions, jacked up DCCs triple digits https://t.co/W0G8u1ZCWm & Step Code https://t.co/Rp2MVG3LTM https://t.co/bDJqK5f50o #yyj
— Victoria Builders (@VicBuilders) April 10, 2019
Edge said VRBA will continue to speak out on housing affordability issues and like so many social media accounts, VRBA’s Twitter could not resist using the first-ever recorded image of a black hole to draw attention to perceived deficits, in this case, Saanich’s permitting process.
Dark abyss: "It’s as close as humanity has ever come to visualizing one of the dark behemoths churning away in distant corners of the universe" https://t.co/jUG5Q77iqw Have been to #Saanich & #VictoriaBC building permit depts so not first time seeing black holes #yyj #bcpoli pic.twitter.com/iqrGlDEC01
— Victoria Builders (@VicBuilders) April 11, 2019
Municipal officials have promised improvements.