Saanich has once again approved a seniors affordable housing complex after a second public hearing was held to account for new information.
Following the Feb. 2 public hearing, Saanich council voted unanimously in favour of a rezoning application for a four-storey complex planned for 3200 Linwood Ave. and owned by Baptist Housing Society. The development was first proposed in 2016 but work was paused and a revised proposal was submitted in 2018. The complex will replace Linwood Court, an existing 29-suite walk-up not far from Mayfair Mall.
Council initially approved a rezoning request for the development at a public hearing on June 16 on the condition that a covenant be registered to confirm that all 97 units would be maintained as affordable rentals in perpetuity. A housing agreement was also requested to confirm that BC Housing would purchase $11,000 worth of suites through the Provincial Rental Housing Corporation (PRHC). These units were to be rented for a reduced rate.
The proposal was green-lit at the time due to a “high demand for seniors housing in the region,” said Coun. Ned Taylor in June.
Since the initial public hearing, it was made clear that while the Baptist Housing Society was willing to sign the covenant, BC Housing and the PRHC had not consented beforehand. According to a Saanich staff report, the requirements put the partnership with BC Housing and the PRHC at risk and therefore a specific term of 40 years for both the covenant and housing agreement was proposed. The units owned by PRHC would be exempt from the rental and affordability requirements.
Because of the changes, a second public hearing was required to allow the community to weigh in.
“Baptist Housing [Society] has been a well-respected housing provider in our region for decades,” said Coun. Susan Brice during the public hearing. “I do think the 40-year rental and affordability guarantee captures the spirit of our intent” which was to ensure long-term affordable housing availability.
Written correspondence was submitted by residents both for and against the development and one individual whose home is next to the proposed complex spoke about concerns regarding setback from their property line.
Following public input, Coun. Nathalie Chambers emphasized that the applicant had worked to accommodate neighbours’ concerns and that, overall, the development would be a positive change for the area.