Victoria’s missing middle housing strategy will likely have a public hearing in early August.
Council voted on June 9 to reverse course on a timeline that staff said on Thursday would prevent a final vote by the end of this municipal term.
The missing middle refers to housing types that bridge the gap between standalone homes and high-density apartments. That missing cluster currently doesn’t exist on a scale anywhere near the level needed by groups like growing families.
With an aim of boosting housing supply and diversity, Victoria’s proposal looks at rezoning areas only permitting single-family homes so that they can also allow for smaller multi-family builds like townhomes and houseplexes.
A vote on whether or not the initiative would go to a public hearing was pushed back by a late May referral motion by Coun. Ben Isitt.
Coun. Stephen Andrew, while noting he previously voted in favour of the referral motion, pushed the effort to have that decision reconsidered. At Thursday’s council meeting, Andrew said his earlier vote was due to concerns around the proposal’s timeline, but was not intended to defer the issue to the next council.
A public information session outlining the missing middle initiative will be held on July 12. A public hearing will then take place on Aug. 4, though a procedural vote on July 14 will finalize that. Council approved up to $25,000 from the city’s contingency fund to mail notices about the information session to every household.
While the proposal aims to address the city’s lagging housing stock, Isitt has called for a portion of new units allowed through the initiative to be affordable. On Thursday, he said not putting that requirement in place would be a “missed opportunity.”
City staff have previously said imposing such a requirement would likely result in no affordable units being built. In Victoria, affordable units are defined as housing that doesn’t exceed 30 per cent of the gross annual household income for very-low to moderate-income households.
Housing advocates have said the missing middle plan could have offshoot benefits of making Victoria’s prices more attainable as they say a key factor driving up costs is the high demand for an insufficient pool of suitable homes.
On Thursday, Mayor Lisa Helps restated that council needs to hear from the public in an official and open forum. She pointed to local shortages of ferry and health-care workers as to why the housing reform is needed.
“We can’t solve those crises but if you’re sailing on a boat that’s leaking, you don’t refer, you act.”
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