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Victoria residential rezoning proposal aims to keep families in the city

Missing middle initiative seeks to advance neighbourhood townhomes, houseplexes
Allowing for the building of more townhomes and houseplexes is a key part of Victoria’s proposed missing middle strategy. (Courtesy of City of Victoria)

As the city responds to the high costs and low stock of homes needed by young families, Victoria is looking to spur housing types that will allow them to stay, live and work in the capital.

The missing middle initiative looks to rezone the city’s lowest density areas to allow for corner townhomes and houseplexes, along with infill builds on properties with unprotected, but heritage-worthy homes.

In a tight vote, the program getting a public hearing was supported by Victoria council sitting as committee of the whole on May 13.

The initiative aims to boost the diversity and overall supply of housing in the city, along with making “car-light” and walkable neighbourhoods that conserve Victoria’s character.

The program would apply to all areas zoned for single-family homes, which are designated as traditional residential. Designs of the three missing middle housing types would have to be considerate to neighbouring properties and have sensitive transitions to the home next door. They’re also required to have appealing street-facing facades, include yard space and be able to accommodate at least one large canopy tree on the property.

The guidelines also require buildings and an on-site parking space to be accessible.

The city’s engagement to date found a critical gap in the availability and supply of three-bedroom units that are not detached homes. While missing-middle-style homes are still relatively high in cost, non-profit housing providers told the city they would alleviate the strain on the entire system because people could vacate and open up the older homes they were living in.

“We’re in the middle of the biggest housing crisis that our residents have ever faced,” Mayor Lisa Helps said at the May 13 meeting. “It’s a crisis because we at this table and (past councils) have never overhauled the city’s residential zoning process to catch up to the current reality.”

READ: Victoria releases proposed plans for Fernwood, Hillside-Quadra, and North Park

The initiative would delegate development permit approvals to staff for the three missing middle types when proposals are clearly consistent with the guideline and include no variances. The city said this would make the process easier, faster and motivate applicants to comply with the guidelines.

Properties with existing heritage protection or ones within a heritage conservation area are not eligible for the program.

The program would establish a base floor-space ratio of 0.5, with bonus density of up to 1.1 FSR (1.0 for houseplexes) given available for proposal including a right of way and at least one more amenity – such as below-market, affordable or secured rental units.

Council passed a measure for the program to include tenant assistance, at the developer’s cost, for secondary suite renters in the event missing middle construction displaced them.

The initiative would be monitored and staff would report back within two years of adoption in case any improvements could be made.

Couns. Geoff Young, Charlayne Thornton-Joe, Ben Isitt and Sharmarke Dubow opposed sending the program to a public hearing. A vote at the daytime council meeting in two weeks will ultimately decide if the public gets a say. The city is able to amend the program after that hearing.

There will be an information session on the program held before the public hearing, should it be approved.

READ: Victoria met some key housing targets, missed others in 2020 Follow us on Instagram. Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Jake Romphf

About the Author: Jake Romphf

In early 2021, I made the move from the Great Lakes to Greater Victoria with the aim of experiencing more of the country I report on.
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