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Affordable housing project near Vic High OK'd by council

Development will include 158 units of affordable housing
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A rendering of the project from Gladstone Avenue. VIA CAPITAL REGIONAL DISTRICT
An housing project near Victoria High School that will replace 22 affordable housing units with 158 received the green light from Victoria councillors Thursday.

The Capital Region Housing Corporation plans to demolish an existing townhouse of 18 units and a two-storey house with four units to build two apartments and three townhouse buildings over nine properties from Gladstone Avenue to Grant Street. The project will include a mix of units ranging from studios to four-bedroom units.

Half of the units will have rent geared to income, where rent does not exceed 30 per cent of the household’s gross monthly income, 20 per cent will be offered at subsidized rents for people on income assistance, and the remaining 30 per cent will be rented at below-market levels for moderate-income families.

Councillors approved the project following a public hearing. Response to the proposal from the public was mixed. While some neighbours said they supported the creation of affordable housing, Vic High alumni and others connected to the school expressed concerns about a loss of land for the school.

Some people have linked a scaled-down plan for Vic High’s stadium project to the loss of land to housing, but the school district has said the scope of the stadium project resulted from consultation, and decisions about it were made before the housing project emerged.

Angela Carmichael, president of the Victoria Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils and mother of two boys who will eventually be attending the school, favours an original plan for an eight-lane track that it is no longer being looked at.

Carmichael said she is not anti-housing. “It was never about housing, it was about the plan and how much the school district was going to go ahead and lease to the city,” she said.

Mayor Lisa Helps, who recused herself from the vote and discussions leading up to it because she lives nearby, said the project will have a big impact on housing supply in the city.

“No one building is going to solve the housing crisis but this is a significant development… It will make a difference for at least 158 people and families,” she said.

The nine properties for the project were assembled through a land-exchange agreement between the city, B.C. Housing and the Greater Victoria School District, which will own the consolidated land parcel and lease it to the housing corporation.

Helps said that partnership sets a precedent for what can be done in the city and the region to work together to bring more affordable housing.

Coun. Geoff Young, the lone vote of opposition, said he was concerned about the impacts of a large project on the neighbourhood, and suggested several smaller projects throughout the city would be preferable.

“The pitch that was made that we are neglecting the needs of our school, our high school, resonates with me,” he said.

Demolition is expected to take place in early 2022, with construction starting in spring and people moving in starting October 2024, said Don Elliott, senior manager of regional housing for the CRD and Capital Region Housing Corporation.

The project includes 117 underground parking stalls, 224 secure bike parking spaces, and an amenity room to be leased to local non-profits.

All families in the existing townhouse complex have been rehoused and will have an opportunity to return to the new development.

regan-elliott@timescolonist.com

— With files from Jeff Bell