A home for everyone
- Accelerate the Victoria Housing Strategy, Rapid Deployment of Affordable Housing and Village and Corridors plans
- Reconsider the Missing Middle Housing Initiative
- Create a city land bank program
- Plan and redevelop Evergreen Terrace lands
- Complete the Douglas Corridor comprehensive development plan
- Complete the 10 year OCP review
- Consider a limited property tax holiday for purpose built rentals
- Reward purpose built affordable and rental housing
- Reward programs to minimize tenant displacement
- Offer incentives for arts and cultural amenity spaces
- Small scale housing ambassador
- Heritage accommodation for energy retrofit/efficiency
- Convert commercial real estate spaces into housing units
- Create requirements and rewards for distributed density
- Ease zoning for tiny homes and secondary suites
- Work with the province to accelerate housing for unhoused folk
Housing availability, attainability and affordability are major concerns for Victorians right now. Victoria already has important policies to drive construction of homes – the Victoria Housing Strategy, Rapid Deployment of Affordable Housing and Village and Corridors plans – but we can accelerate, simplify and build on these plans to make them more efficient and streamlined. And we will reconsider the Missing Middle Housing Initiative, as it was, and may be further, revised.
Beyond those existing strategies, there are other roads to housing.
Land banks are public authorities or non-profit organizations created to acquire, hold, manage, and sometimes redevelop property in order to return these properties to productive use to meet community goals, such as increasing affordable housing or stabilizing property values. Victoria is well suited for such a program, as the amount of available property is limited and the city may have a role in ensuring what there is can be put to the highest and best use. We can explore creating and funding a city land bank program, to bank capital to purchase land for affordable housing projects in partnership with government and non-profit housing providers.
Several specific areas in the city are ready for planning and development. Evergreen Terrace is a uniquely composed tract that provides important lower cost housing but is nearing the end of its useful life. Redeveloping this are with an eye to increased density affords a special opportunity to increase the availability of affordable housing in this central district of the city.
The Douglas Corridor is ready for a comprehensive development plan – with open spaces, playgrounds, active transit, affordable and middle housing, childcare, and household amenities (like food shops, restaurants, hardware etc.) compatible with current and future light industrial use.
Tax holidays have been used to good purposes to provide incentives for heritage restoration (which should continue) and can also be considered for purpose built rentals (and non-profit housing and co-operative housing). We could trial a 5 to 10 year property tax holiday for owners of all three housing types. Pre-zoning and fee waivers reward purpose built affordable and rental housing and minimize tenant displacement, and incentivize renter protection programs, like safety from renoviction, temporary accommodation and first right of refusal rights.
Small scale housing offers a unique scale of housing suitable for individuals whose lifestyles and needs have been downsized or are more minimalist. At least until regulations for such dwellings are routine, a ‘small scale ambassador’ could facilitate and coordinate builders of small homes, e.g. garden suites, secondary suites, duplexes, tiny homes, pre-fab models, containers etc. Innovation could be fostered with a design competition to create “off the shelf” small home designs that can be pre-approved if they meet standard plans and zones – with rewards for the most sustainable, most cost effective, etc.
Heritage preservation must continue if we want to balance retention of colonial history with our recognition of the importance of showcasing Indigenous history. At the same time, modern demands for environmental stewardship mean we should find ways to accommodate heritage restoration, renovation and protection with allowances for energy retrofits and efficiency, like adaptation of solar/wind power on heritage structures.
As the commercial real estate vacancy rate continues to climb, there is an opportunity to convert those spaces into housing units. New regulations pertaining to affordable housing, that no longer requires rezoning or public hearings when they are consistent with the City's Official Community Plan and related design guidelines, could also be applied to existing commercial building owners wishing to convert their properties to mixed use; from Commercial to Commercial – Residential. That would help to maximize the use of land space. We already have mixed use buildings in Victoria. This seems like a logical next step, within limits so as not to unduly diminish the vibrant commercial sectors of the city.
Creating requirements and rewards for distributed density, where housing types are distributed throughout the city, ensures no one neighbourhood has uniform design or housing typology. This makes every neighbourhood unique and diverse. Offering rewards to developers for making space for arts and culture creators begins to build the collaborative spaces needed to generate innovation districts that incorporate art, culture, performance and creative output.
The city isn’t in the business of directly building homes for currently unhoused people but we can work with other jurisdictions, agencies and others to increase funding for regional supportive housing and rent supplement programs, continue to champion distributed supportive housing, while urging provincial and federal governments to robustly fund supportive health and social services.
In 2023, the Official Community Plan will have been operational for ten years. It’s time for a thorough review of its effectiveness in achieving the goals set out at the start, and revising those goals to respond to the evolution of the city and its current and future residents’ housing needs.