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LETTER: Saanich's tallest high-rise a lost opportunity

Affordable housing lacking in 24-storey tower approved for Uptown
Saanich has approved a development permit for a 24-storey building to be built in the Uptown area.

According to an article in Saanich News, a 24-storey tower has been approved for Uptown. This building will provide 318 rental units. The fact that it will be rental units is encouraging. However, the units are so-called market (speculation) rental units, which suggests that they will be costly and therefore unaffordable for many.

Those in power often tell us that if you advocate for affordable housing you will have to expect high density. I assume that many of you have long discovered that density does not necessarily mean affordability.

This project is a prime example: it is to become the tallest building in Saanich, yet there is no mention of including affordable units, that is units with rent not more than 30% of one’s income. My question is: for whom will those market units be built? How many people in the Greater Victoria area who are unhoused or are on the edge of becoming unhoused will be finding a home in this tallest building of Saanich? Where will our working people live?

In the case of the promised tallest tower, Saanich council has approved the development permit. Next, the developer has to apply for a building permit. I hope that this means that there is still room for council to use its zoning power to demand the inclusion of truly affordable housing units. And so they should.

Every time I see a building going up without the inclusion of affordable housing I feel despair, knowing that yet another opportunity to provide affordable housing has been lost. There are examples where a municipal council did set rules that a housing development has to include a percentage of affordable housing. I have on occasion spoken up about regulating a 15% or 20% inclusion of affordable units in every larger development. In the case of 318 units, that would mean 45 or 60 units.

If we as a society are serious about solving the housing crisis, I urge Saanich and other municipal councils to use their zoning power to demand the inclusion of at least 15% if not 20% affordable housing units in every larger housing development project.

Houses are for living in, not for speculation. Housing is a human right; everyone needs a place to call home!

Hanny Pannekoek