One of Victoria’s main housing strategies got thrown for a procedural loop on Thursday.
The city’s missing middle initiative – which strives to boost the supply of needed family-sized housing spaces – got support for a public hearing during a vote at Victoria’s May 12 committee meeting. But at Thursday’s council meeting, another stage was added to the process, despite staff noting it could add months and possibly unfunded work.
The 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.
Its draft framework was put together following a month-long engagement period that included several meetings, an online survey and a workshop with the development industry in September 2020. Another month-long session last fall included updated information published on the city’s website, an online survey, virtual events, workshops and focus groups.
On Thursday, Coun. Ben Isitt introduced essentially his same referral motion that was voted down two weeks earlier. It called on staff to take public input from an already-planned information session and make amendments to the missing middle draft document based on those comments.
“This is a very complex change in the city’s approach to zoning,” Isitt said. “It’s reasonable for us to ensure the public has had an opportunity, an adequate opportunity, to consider what’s been proposed.”
The motion was approved in a 5-4 vote, with support from Isitt and Couns. Stephen Andrew, Geoff Young, Sharmarke Dubow and Charlayne Thornton-Joe. Council was split between those wanting changes and more consultation before a public hearing and those wanting the hearing itself to guide any changes.
Staff aim to have the draft policy back for consideration at a July committee of the whole meeting.
Mayor Lisa Helps criticized the referral motion before Thursday’s vote, saying it went outside the city’s standard process and the initiative already had the “most robust and detailed” public consultation in over a decade.
“If we refer this back and get staff to do more engagement, it’s just going to be a repeat performance of the hard work staff and the public have been doing on this for two years,” Helps said.
She added that folks such as teachers, doctors and construction workers can’t find housing because Victoria’s current zoning restricts building the types they need.
“(Another councillor) said we don’t know the impact that this is going to have, but we certainly know the impact of doing nothing.”
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