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View Royal mayor calls for six-month pause on new development

The move comes as View Royal lands on the province’s list of 47 communities that have to do more to increase housing
The Royale condominium under construction at Island Highway and Helmcken Road in View Royal. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

View Royal Mayor Sid Tobias is proposing a pause on all new developments for six months — just as the town lands on the province’s list of 47 communities that have to do more to increase housing.

Tobias said View Royal needs to evaluate its housing stock and consult residents about the future of the community before the province forces its hand.

“I just don’t think community planning should be a rush job,” Tobias said Monday. “I think we should take a breath here and see what we really need.”

Tobias is taking a motion to View Royal council tonight asking for the six-month moratorium, citing the need to review the town’s growth strategy and Official Community Plan in light of the province’s new housing legislation.

“It’s not that we’re against development,” said Tobias. “We just want to make sure it’s the right development for the community.”

Under the mayor’s motion, only complete new development applications would be considered — anything new to View Royal would have to wait.

Last week, the province released a list of 10 municipalities — including Victoria, Saanich and Oak Bay — that need to approve a mix of housing amid an ongoing shortage of housing in B.C.

It was expanded Monday to include the names of all 47 municipalities the province is targeting, including View Royal and the 12 other municipalities in the Capital Regional District.

The province’s so-called “naughty list” includes municipalities with the greatest projected growth and highest need that have the area and means to provide new housing but have been slow to approve new units.

“While these are areas with the highest need and projected growth, it is not a guarantee that targets will be set in each of those municipalities,” the Housing Ministry said in a statement.

The housing targets will be set later this summer and ­municipalities will have six months to show progress. Municipalities were selected using a weighted index based on factors that include urgency of housing need, projected population growth, land availability and housing affordability.

Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon said last week that 10 more municipalities will be selected and notified later this year. It’s unclear which of the municipalities on the order-in-council list will be next.

Tobias said there is plenty of building underway in View Royal, mostly around Victoria General Hospital and West Burnside Road. There are seven major developments— three under construction and four with development permits — that include 293 strata units and 588 rental apartments, according to the town’s latest housing supply update on May 3.

But Tobias said the town has to consider whether new homes are affordable and accessible, if they fit with existing ­neighbourhoods and if the current infrastructure can handle them.

“As a council, we have to have some strategic guidelines for what’s best for the community. Yes, there is a housing crisis, but there’s also a climate crisis, an infrastructure and services ­crisis. We can’t just build at the whim of a developer and try to make it work after the fact.”

Tobias said the pause will also provide an opportunity to review the town’s Official Community Plan, noting View Royal’s ­population of 11,575 in the last census in 2021 has already surpassed the OCP’s projection for 2035.

He said the latest seven developments represent an 18% increase in View Royal’s population over the next two years, based on 2,072 people living in those new units. “That’s not including [other] recent buildings and single family [homes],” he said.

View Royal’s OCP, adopted in 2011, maps out land uses, types of buildings and amenities, ­targeting areas for high-density housing and infill with duplexes, carriage houses and other forms in existing neighbourhoods.

David Screech, who lost the mayor’s chair in October’s civic election, said Tobias led a charge to scuttle a draft OCP that had been paid for and prepared with much resident input.

“It was at a draft stage and ready for public input,” Screech said in a social media post.

He said the region is in a housing crisis and View Royal has a good OCP, so “I cannot imagine why we would need a moratorium on rezoning.”

If communities don’t meet the housing targets within six months, the province says it will appoint an independent adviser to help them make progress. If that doesn’t work, the province can overrule the municipality with the power to rezone entire neighbourhoods to create more density.

Nanaimo Mayor Leonard Krog is skeptical the targets will increase housing supply and affordability.

“It’s a worthy goal, ensuring that people have housing. I’m not sure that setting targets per se will make it work,” Krog said. “If the government isn’t building [housing] and the private sector slows down, how are you supposed to meet housing targets?”

Krog said he’s pleased Nanaimo wasn’t in the “top 10 bad list, because, candidly, we’re processing enormous numbers of building permits and approvals already. We don’t need a list or an incentive.”

When Premier David Eby first announced the housing targets through the Housing Supply Act, he promised that communities that build the required housing will be rewarded with cash for amenities such as bike lanes, recreation centres and infrastructure to support growing populations.

Some mayors said they want to see federal and provincial cash for badly needed infrastructure like improved highways and bridges in order to address congestion in and out of their growing communities.

Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon said communities that meet the targets will be “first in line” for federal funding through the $4-billion housing accelerator fund. He also noted that all B.C. municipalities received no-strings-attached cash this spring through the $1-billion growing communities fund, though municipalities like View Royal used it to cover policing costs due to increasing population.

Here are all the municipalities mentioned in the order-in-council, listed alphabetically:

• Abbotsford*

• Anmore (village)

• Belcarra (village)

• Burnaby

• Central Saanich (district)

• Chilliwack

• Colwood

• Coquitlam

• Delta*

• Duncan

• Esquimalt (township)

• Highlands (district)

• Kamloops*

• Kelowna

• Ladysmith (town)

• Lake Cowichan (town)

• Langford

• Lantzville (district)

• Langley

• Langley (township)

• Lions Bay (village)

• Maple Ridge

• Metchosin (district)

• Mission

• Nanaimo

• New Westminster

• North Cowichan (district)

• North Saanich (district)

• North Vancouver*

• North Vancouver (district)

• Oak Bay (district)*

• Pitt Meadows

• Port Coquitlam

• Port Moody*

• Prince George

• Richmond

• Saanich (district)*

• Sidney (town)

• Sooke (district)

• Squamish (district)

• Surrey

• Vancouver*

• Victoria*

• View Royal (town)

• West Kelowna

• West Vancouver (district municipality)*

• White Rock*

*Previously announced

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