Keeping their options open

Will a planned spurt in residential development on the Peninsula do much to alleviate a housing crunch for mid-to-lower income ranges?

Will a planned spurt in residential development on the Saanich Peninsula in 2014 do much at all to alleviate a housing crunch for people in the mid-to-lower income ranges?

That’s a big question hanging over proposed new homes in Sidney and North Saanich. There are at least six potential developments at various stages of application in both communities and all look to be based on current market conditions to set their prices. Almost all proposals are of the small lot, compact style of housing, meaning generally lower prices with the potential for mortgage-helpers — or laneway houses and mother-in-law suites — that could provide options for young people or new families.

That said, those options are left to the purchaser to decide. If they want a mortgage-helper, they can have one built. If they don’t, then it’s not an option – at least in the here-and-now. This means the ability for these projects to meet demands for affordable housing is, at best, random. That doesn’t necessarily mean, however, that it’s all bad.

With an increasing poverty rate in Greater Victoria, according to Statistics Canada and the 2013 Vital Signs report, and a high cost of living people are challenged to find an affordable place to live and have to balance that with a longer commute, access to transit and family life.

Will market conditions on the Peninsula, then, create a more affordable place to live?

Policy-makers in North Saanich and Sidney hope so, as municipal councils have created the environment for more growth and change. While allowing market price housing to lead the charge, these policies also create more options than a single direction of creating affordable – or social – housing. That has the potential of limiting who might want to buy here – or even build here.

Peninsula communities encourage the creation of affordable homes and require developers to build that into their plans. It’s yet another option for potential buyers when they look to make one of the biggest investments of their lives.

Having more options is the better way to go.