LETTER: Duplexes fill a need in the community

This is a letter sent to mayor and council in support of two recent applications for non-conforming legal duplexes that are before council.

READ ALSO: Oak Bay on verge of approving its second duplex

I understand we have between 47 and 70 such properties across Oak Bay. Some are side by side, two and three bedroom, and others are less obvious as they are upper and lower units in one single structure. The zoning of this form of housing is quite simply out of date with the changing times, rising land prices and real estate market.

In 1976 my husband and I lobbied city hall in Ottawa to have such zoning changed to allow for single title for each side of our first home. Imagine having to purchase two homes just to get one to live in. But that was the way it was.

In every community I have lived in since that time, semi-detached/duplexes/side-by-side homes were treated as single family homes and have served as a stepping stone for young families or downsizers to purchase or rent housing that is more affordable than single family homes in those same communities.

Proud owners updated them and they still stand as part of the housing mix in communities elsewhere including right next door in the City of Victoria.

And then there is Oak Bay.

READ ALSO: Oak Bay council discusses heritage status, sewer and water rates

I understand some people think that these houses should still serve the original purpose – to provide rental housing. But on closer inspection it seems that is not even the case today, even with these antiquated regulations in place.

A few are owner occupied on one side and rented on the other. These are proudly updated and lived in. Others are simply rundown rentals owned by investors who are not putting any money into updating them unless they have to. Still others have come on the market and sold in the past few years only to be demolished and replaced by much larger single family homes.

The only way to save these homes as affordable rental or owner-occupied homes is to make the necessary changes allowing each unit to be bought and sold separately.

READ ALSO: ‘A gift to the house:’ Oak Bay family united with history, original window of historic home

Please use the opportunity of this most recent application to the municipality and update our outdated rules. Please save these homes as they form a very necessary mix of the missing middle in our community’s housing mix.

Please support this homeowner’s application to update his duplex and keep these two houses in our community.

I am most impressed with the homeowner’s desire to save the family home she and her family occupied while constructing a new age-in-place home behind it.

Architect John Kay has demonstrated he understands what seniors want and need. Many want to continue to live in the community they grew up in and where they, in turn, raised their families. They do not want to climb stairs and live alone in large houses as empty nesters and most especially once one partner has passed away. They want to stay in the community with their friends and familiar shops that they know and love.

When I served on the Official Community Plan advisory group we heard residents tell us they want this form of housing. Many long-term Oak Bay residents left just to find it.

Let’s approve this and continue to encourage similar ventures.

Jan Mears

Oak Bay

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