A 30-unit tiny-home community on a portion of the Royal Athletic Park parking lot will remain in place until at least next March, after Victoria’s committee of the whole voted to renew its temporary-use permit.
Subject to public consultation and notification, the permit will be renewed for three years, but any extension beyond March 2023 would only be granted after consultation with B.C. Housing, which funds the project, Our Place, which operates it and the North Park Neighbourhood Association.
Coun. Ben Isitt, who proposed allowing the permit to extend to three years rather than six months, said while B.C. Housing has committed funding until the end of March, there could be other funding partners and operators willing to run such a community.
Coun. Geoff Young said he would prefer that the city align its extension with B.C. Housing’s timeline for wrapping up funding.
He said depending on how long it takes to find permanent housing for residents, the city could be expected to pick up the cost of operating the community.
“I think the message that goes to B.C. Housing, to the non-profits, to their employees who are working there and to the residents should be the same,” he said. “It should say we are extending this to March 2023, and by that time, we expect that new arrangements will be in place because otherwise we at the city will be in the horrible position of either having to close it down because we’re not going to pay for it, or paying for it … as we try and persuade B.C. Housing to find housing for people who may or may not want to move.”
Mayor Lisa Helps said B.C. Housing has indicated supportive-housing units should be available for residents of the tiny-home community to move into by March.
The community dubbed Tiny Town was established out of shipping containers in the spring of 2021 as temporary housing for people at risk of homelessness. By the community’s one-year anniversary in May, all but three of the original residents were still there.
In a letter of support for permit renewal, the Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness said an extension would help the organization plan the relocation of residents.
“This project has been transformative by addressing the needs of persons experiencing homelessness and transformational to our community,” wrote executive director Sylvia Ceacero, adding Tiny Town residents have experienced a significant improvement in their lives since moving into a community they can rely on.
The North Park Neighbourhood Association was also supportive, noting it had received no significant complaints in the past year, and would be willing to see the permit extended until September 2023.
“The Tiny Homes community has integrated well into the neighbourhood,” the association wrote. “This supportive housing project has been integrated successfully within the North Park neighbourhood, providing the necessary resources for individuals experiencing homelessness. We understand the dire need for housing and hope that the current tenants are being prioritized for permanent housing as soon as it is available.”
The association expressed concern, however, about a homeless encampment developing outside the community since June, and asked that new tenants not be brought into the community when the current tenants move to permanent housing.