Victoria councillors aim to fast-track rental housing

Victoria will fast-track applications for purpose-built rental housing and look at removing barriers to building secondary and garden suites.

The provisions are part of a new housing strategy approved last week. Councillors hope it will help ease the impact of an additional 20,000 residents expected to move here over the next 25 years.

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“It’s clearly not for the faint of heart, these issues that we are dealing with,” said Coun. Pam Madoff, adding that Victoria is now the third most expensive rental market in the country, behind Toronto and Vancouver.

“We just can’t underestimate the challenge that we’re facing.”

Victoria’s population is forecast to grow by 20,000 residents by 2041. City staff say an estimated 13,500 more apartment units and about 2,700 ground-orientated units will be needed.

Over the same period, the proportion of the population older than 65 is expected to grow to 29 per cent from 17 per cent. The share of children and young adults is expected to decline, but will grow in absolute numbers.

“I think there’s some urgency on this file,” said Coun. Ben Isitt. “I think the creation of affordable housing is a higher priority than extensive engagement with people who’ve currently managed to get their foot in the door.

“So I’m OK saying we want to remove barriers to secondary suites, and I’m OK having a fast-tracked implementation of that.”

Isitt said he doesn’t see a lot of push back against secondary suites in the community.

While secondary suites are already allowed in residential zones, there are some barriers, such as minimum floor space requirements.

The strategy outlines a number of actions hoped to increase supply of affordable units, including reducing parking requirements, removing minimum size regulations in multi-unit residential zones and looking for ways to increase the number of secondary suites.

Council also endorsed a motion brought forward by Madoff, Isitt and Coun. Jeremy Loveday calling on city staff to look at ways to slow the pace of demolition and preserve existing housing.

City staff will investigate the city’s legal and regulatory authority over issues such as options for increased regulation and oversight of building demolitions; conversion regulations that might impede retention or repurposing of existing buildings; ensuring the floor-space entitlement of existing buildings is greater than what would be allowed for new construction; standards of property maintenance; mechanisms to encourage or mandate improvement or use of vacant or derelict buildings; and the environmental impacts of demolitions.

bcleverley@timescolonist.com

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