Spending 30 years writing for community newspapers means sitting through a lot of (painful) city council meetings and public hearings.
That also means listening to a lot of (painful) NIMBYs complaining about any housing ideas that involve density higher than a single-detached house.
It could be modular housing to get people off the streets or just adding a tiny laneway house on a property – it doesn’t matter, these folks will be against it.
This is how it normally sounds: “I support new housing … but not here … and not like this.”
And for many decades, cowardly city politicians have given in to this pearl clutching about a loss of parking spots or a taller building adding “shade” to a homeowner’s backyard.
Here locally we saw this hand-wringing over a proposed three-storey, 25-unit townhome development at Rainbow Street and Sevenoaks Road in Saanich.
The project is a small step towards offering missing middle options in Saanich, but that didn’t stop NIMBYs from protesting.
Yes, a whopping 25 townhomes sparked an anguished outcry about how they would destroy the neighbourhood.
“The community is not opposed to development,” said one resident, who proceeded to oppose this development. “We are simply asking for a development and density in harmony with the functionality of the area and the surrounding delicate, precious ecosystems.”
I just moved to Victoria from Metro Vancouver, where people would laugh at the idea of protesting 25 townhomes. That region doesn’t see developments even close to being that small.
And then there is Victoria, which just passed its missing middle housing proposal a process akin to the Bataan death march.
“The initiative’s main goal is to boost the supply of family-suitable, ground-oriented homes that fall between single-family dwellings and larger apartments,” is how our Victoria News story described it. “Victoria’s approved proposal amends zoning on lots that currently only allow single-family homes to also permit corner townhomes, houseplexes and some infill housing on heritage-worthy properties to be built. The city has called the initiative one tool in its 40-part housing strategy.”
I try not to hack on other media outlets, but I saw one Victoria publication call the plan “divisive” in a headline and that riled me up. Calling it “divisive” gives NIMBYs far too much weight in whining about new housing.
Anybody can complain about something – social media has only made that worse. Just because a few people show up to yell at a city council meeting doesn’t mean that a bold plan to add housing is “divisive.”
I support free speech, but I also support trying to ease our housing crisis. And we need to keep calling it a crisis because that’s what it is. We have failed our young people with terrible policies, leaving them unable to afford most housing.
They are now struggling mightily simply to afford any kind of housing. My own daughter (she’s 24) lives with five other people in a rotting old house because that’s what it takes to have an affordable rent.
Too many owners of single-detached houses – often people who bought them for relative peanuts decades ago – have theirs and will put up any roadblocks to prevent anything new near them.
Some B.C. politicians are finally growing some courage and ignoring the NIMBYs.
Chris Campbell is an editor in Victoria with Black Press Media. You can follow him on Twitter or Instagram @shinebox44.