Public input sought on tiny-home proposal for Royal Athletic Park

The public will get a chance to comment on plans to move people from homeless encampments into 30 tiny homes built from repurposed shipping containers and installed in the parking lot next to Royal Athletic Park.

Victoria city councillors agreed Thursday to get feedback on the proposal at a special council meeting on March 18.

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The Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness, in partnership with Aryze Developments, has raised more than $500,000 to build the homes and wants permission to use the parking lot for up to 18 months.

“If this temporary housing is one small step towards ensuring that every community member has a home, it’s a step I think the city should take — if the public indicates that it’s supportable,” Coun. Ben Isitt said.

A staff report pegs the city’s share of the operating costs at about $215,000, plus another $60,000 to cover installation, and later removal, of water and sewer services.

The city may be able to recover some or all of the costs from a provincial grant program, staff say.

Coun. Geoff Young said he hopes that happens.

“Once again, the city is shouldering far too great a share of the responsibility,” he said. “And I certainly hope that that will be recognized by our funding partners, because we know there’ll be a lot of costs for policing, bylaw, and costs imposed on local residents.”

Mayor Lisa Helps said the coalition is seeking a temporary-use permit for up to 18 months because that’s the time needed to build permanent housing for residents of the tiny homes.

“That’s the outside date,” she said. “I think that some of the housing will come on sooner, but that was the time that was decided, in consultation with the province, in terms of what they would need to bring permanent purpose-built housing [online].”

City council has pledged to end around-the-clock camping in city parks by the end of the month, provided more than 200 people sheltering outdoors have been offered a place inside. The tiny-home village is one potential solution, along with a temporary shelter at Save-On-Foods Memorial Arena and plans to reopen units at the Capital CityCenter Hotel where a fire displaced people last November.

More housing is still needed, however, so council has postponed until next week a debate on whether to resume enforcement of its overnight camping bylaw as of March 31. The bylaw permits people to shelter in parks from dusk to dawn provided they pack up their belongings each morning.

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