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Saanich decades away from digging out of housing hole: report

Only 253 units were completed in 2022 and 191 in 2021 — well short of the estimated 610 new units a year needed to meet demand.
A Saanich neighbourhood is seen from Mt. Tolmie. A progress report suggests the municipality will not meet its 2025 housing target. ADRIAN LAM, TIMES COLONIST

It is likely to take one or two generations before the District of Saanich can dig itself out of its housing deficit.

During discussion this past week of a progress report on Saanich’s housing strategy, district staff suggested it will be decades before the municipality can catch up, noting it has managed to build only 70 per cent of its housing target over the past six years.

And even that number is generous, as the report noted Saanich saw an average of 340 units completed per year over the past five years, which included a boom of 620 units completed in 2019.

Only 253 units were completed in 2022 and 191 in 2021. The 2020 housing needs report prepared for the district by Urban Matters showed Saanich could require 3,049 new homes by 2025 and the community could see 5,290 new households by that date. It recommended Saanich complete 610 new units a year to meet demand.

The bottom line, according to the report: Saanich is not meeting its housing need.

Coun. Karen Harper said the report was a good step forward as there were bright spots highlighted in it, like the series of initiatives underway to address the housing crisis. She said she looks forward to the district continuing to move forward — even though progress is unlikely to be fast enough for some councillors.

Mayor Dean Murdock conceded the “need is extraordinary and we have a long way to go,” though he appreciated staff efforts to improve affordability and increasing housing supply.

Staff laid out several programs, most of which are underway, that will start to tackle the problem. They include developing incentives to build new rental stock, finding ways to protects existing rental stock, studying “missing middle” housing, and implementing recommendations to reduce processing times for new developments.

The report noted affordability — spending less than 30 per cent of household income on a mortgage — is virtually out of the question for all housing types in the municipality.

Coun. Teale Phelps Bondaroff said council is trying to make it easier for multi-family housing units to be developed for a reason.

“It’s because we have a pressing housing need, and if you look at this report, single-family home ownership is unattainable for anyone making other than an astronomical amount of money,” he said.

“So it’s one of those things where I think that is important to communicate to our amazing neighbours, and one of the reasons you’re going to see a lot of multi-family homes in Saanich where people can live with lots of fun neighbours and in efficient, dense, walkable, compact, sustainable communities.”

In an earlier interview Murdock told the Times Colonist that Saanich has been working to improve its processes and reduce the time it takes to approve development.

Murdock said residents told council ­candidates during October’s municipal elections that the district needs to get to work to build housing of all kinds.

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