A new survey commissioned by a pro-development group casts doubt about the ability of government to improve the supply of affordable housing on Vancouver Island.
Twenty-four per cent of respondents on Vancouver Island say “housing affordability” has “worsened a lot” thanks to “actions of governments (provincial and municipal) on housing,” according to an Ipsos poll conducted on behalf of the Urban Development Institute (UDI). The organization describes itself as a “non-profit association of the development industry and its related professions that is non-partisan in its activities.” By way of background, the District of Saanich joined the organization following the 2018 municipal election.
Looking at municipal governments specifically, 63 per cent of respondents on Vancouver Island say municipalities are “not doing enough” to encourage more diverse housing options such as duplexes, triplexes, mid-rise apartments or senior living residences.
The survey also finds Vancouver Island respondents want to see improvements to the municipal approval process.
Thirty-seven per cent say they are “strongly” of the opinion that the approval process needs to be fixed, with 34 per cent “somewhat” of the opinion that the approval process needs to be fixed. By way of comparison, only residents in B.C.’s interior and north appear more dissatisfied than residents of Vancouver Island.
These figures are backed up by groups like the Victoria Residential Builders Association (VRBA), which has long criticized Saanich for slow processing times. While municipal officials have promised improvements, this promise alone is acknowledgement of VRBA’s broader point. VRBA has also questioned plans by Saanich to raise development cost charges — a plan currently delayed — and introduce a voluntary building code as a tool against climate change.
But this assessment by UDI also comes with a proviso as the question itself suggests a certain framing. Specifically, it asks the following: “In some municipalities it can take up to five years for a housing proposal to be approved. Which of the following is closer to your point of view?”
It then presents two options, which read as follows: “I trust municipalities to go through a proper approval process, and if it takes five years then it takes five years. I think the municipal process is too long and needs to be fixed so that there are more housing options more quickly.”
The statement of “up to five” years likely represents an outlier, and the question itself does not define a timely process, leaving respondents guessing.
This said, the overall survey finds British Columbians remain concerned with house prices and rents, and point to housing diversity as an issue. Three-quarters (74 per cent) agree “home prices and rents remain high because there are too few housing options.”
Agreement with this sentiment is high across all regions of the province, including Vancouver Island (72 per cent).
British Columbians do not see an improvement in housing affordability. Overall, only one-quarter of British Columbians think the number of affordable housing options has increased in the province in the past two years while one-quarter (26 per cent) say the number has stayed the same and nearly half (45 per cent) say the number of affordable options has decreased, with 26 per cent saying by “a lot” and 20 per cent saying by a “little.”
Saanich for its part has promised to improve the supply and diversity of affordable housing.