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Letters Nov. 21: Looking after downtown Victoria; new Saanich fire hall should include housing; councillors should stick with local issues

An artist’s rendering of what the new Royal Oak fire hall could look like. Work on the design is still underway. HCMA ARCHITECTS

More care is needed in downtown Victoria

I have not lived in Victoria for 10 years and despite occasional visits I missed my city enough that I bought a place in a new development I had admired while I was on city council.

When I returned I enjoyed doing many of the things I had looked forward to. Seeing my grandson play soccer, meeting old friends and visiting downtown.

I saw many changes in the city but nothing prepared me for what happened downtown.

As I left a store on a weekday morning I bumped into a friend. While I chatted, I distractedly laid my backpack on a bench behind me. A few minutes later I felt for it and it was gone.

At first I thought I must have left it in the store but I soon realized that it had been taken. Reading a few days ago about a more violent theft of the same kind I now realize I was probably lucky.

Something has changed in the city that I love. The same thing is happening in many cities.

It shocked me at first because I’ve been living in a small town, insulated from a new reality that has overtaken our cities.

I had already become concerned when I saw parks become the default for dealing with social problems; parks should remain places where we can go as a respite from all the issues we face.

I had been reading about these issues but nothing compares to experiencing it first-hand.

I will still go downtown and enjoy the city, but more carefully than when I lived here before.

Victoria is a dynamic and interesting city! I understand the problem is complex but I will add my voice to seeking out and dealing with root causes which are driving behaviours that were once less common.

I suspect that 30 years of neglect of living wages, mental illness and homelessness by senior levels of government are high on that list.

Denise Savoie


New Saanich fire hall is a missed opportunity

The proposed Fire Hall No. 2 redevelopment at 4595 Elk Lake Dr. in Saanich is not in keeping with the provincial government’s goal of having major affordable housing projects near transit exchanges and transit corridors.

The Saanich fire hall site is near B.C. Transit’s Royal Oak Exchange.

One would have expected Saanich to have considered a fire hall and affordable housing at this corner, similar to the 12-storey project that Victoria recently opened at 1025 Johnson St. that has the new Victoria Fire Hall No. 1 and 130 affordable housing units over it.

It is not too late for Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon, Capital Region Housing Corporation chair Zac de Vries, Saanich Mayor Dean Murdock and the federal government to get together and get a fire hall and affordable housing done at 4595 Elk Lake Dr.

Will action match their pronouncements on affordable housing?

Ben Pires


Victoria council should deal with Victoria issues

Victoria city council members were elected to administer to the needs of the citizens of Victoria.

The downtown area is a “war zone,” affordable housing is a dream, the number of homeless and the addicted is growing, the medical system is something out of a Third World country.

Yet council members feel that it is their obligation to take a position on a ceasefire in the Middle East. This is not their mandate or responsibility.

Coun. Susan Kim represents all members of her constituency, not just the Palestinian ones. Her wearing a keffiyeh and signing the open letter questioning the validity of Israel’s reporting of the Oct. 7 massacre was totally inappropriate.

Sandra Levy


Councils help developers make more money

I groaned at yet another poorly informed politician suggesting in the Nov. 18 commentary that the solution to the housing affordability crisis is more homes.

The idea that more homes equates to affordable housing has been discredited in studies that are easily found online.

If it were so, Vancouver would have the cheapest housing on earth instead of the most expensive.

Not that it matters. Anybody who can do basic math, and look up a few statistics on the internet, will know that, at this point, politicians are just pushing homes for the wealthy.

When a builder can build a $2 million home, or eight $800,000 townhomes, they will build the townhomes for maximum profit.

For a middle-income family, affordability is a moot point. Both the home and the townhomes are out of reach.

Meanwhile, the increased density overwhelms infrastructure requiring municipalities to raise property taxes significantly.

We see that happening now with double-digit tax increases becoming the new normal. This puts stress on long-time home owners, many of whom are house rich but cash poor seniors.

Make no mistake. Politicians are selling us out to an influential development lobby. The middle class is being carved out here and in communities across BC. This process is well underway.

In another 20 years this will be a city of the wealthy living in well-appointed townhomes and condo towers.

The streets will be full of the homeless, struggling to survive day-to-day. There will be no in-between.

Michael Laplante


Aryze should honour its original commitment

Re: “Affordable housing nixed for Foul Bay townhouse project,” Nov. 18.

No affordable housing component for the extremely controversial 902 Foul Bay project? This, as Victoria Coun. Chris Coleman points out, sets a dangerous precedent for already existing approved projects based on the promise of affordable housing.

I would beg to differ with Mayor Marianne Alto. I am absolutely certain that not only councillors were swayed by this, but the many neighbours who partitioned to save the old growth trees on the property would have been consoled by the fact that at least they came away with some affordable housing.

The bottom line is yes, we need to build housing but it must be affordable.

Aryze is a major developer that stands to make millions in profit. They should honour their original commitment.

Rachel McDonnell


Housing decision is an example of hypocrisy

Re: “Affordable housing nixed for Foul Bay townhouse project,” Nov. 18.

Ever since the start of discussion about Victoria’s awful missing middle law, the public has been deceived in regard to affordability.

It was originally touted as the best answer to the affordability crisis (witness all the students and other young people speaking to council in favour of the bylaw at the marathon sessions).

This long disputed Foul Bay project by Aryze is the poster child for missing middle in many ways, and once again, the council has shown their disregard for affordability in favour of building expensive townhouses and altering neighbourhoods, by removing the four affordable housing units the city and the developer agreed to.

This is another act of hypocrisy which fits hand and foot with the provincial new housing bylaws.

Richard Volet


Getting a concession at a low, low price

Re: “Affordable housing nixed for Foul Bay townhouse project,” Nov. 18.

I read with anger and despair that Victoria council bowed, yet again, to developers’ wishes.

A quarter of the units set aside for affordable housing will be lost to families who will have to continue to pay exorbitant rents for most likely too cramped living space.

And to boot, the developer needed only $60,000 to have the council rescind their decision!

I bet the sale of those 28 beautiful big old trees will probably more than make up Aryze’s payment for the change.

Council should have asked Aryze for the amount of profit they will make in the sale of these foregone affordable units.

What a boon for developers! Watch them come for more!

Liz Fraikin


Change in RRIF rules could encourage doctors

One simple solution that could keep doctors working longer is a change to federal requirements for RRIF withdrawals at eight per cent annually.

Here is the problem with that requirement.

Doctors save for retirement in RRSP accounts. Any withdrawals from these accounts are fully taxable income. On retirement age, RRSP accounts must convert to RRIF accounts which must pay out eight per cent of account balance annually. This is fully taxable.

If a doctor has saved $1,500,000 for retirement in an RRIF account, they must take eight per cent, or $120,000, out in a year. Fully taxable.

This is a huge disincentive for doctors to keep working when all earnings will attract the highest tax rates.

It is not like the federal government is losing anything by eliminating the eight-per-cent deduction requirement. They are always going to get taxes on RRIF withdrawals from doctors or their estates.

Elimination of this eight per cent deduction requirement may keep many experienced doctors working.

Peter Daniel

President, Woodburn Management (2010) Ltd.


Thank the donors to cancer research

Re: “Breakthrough in cancer fight should get government support,” editorial, Nov. 17.

It is really quite negligent to not acknowledge the legion of donors who have loyally supported Dr. Brad Nelson’s research for decades.

Most of the equipment and the clean room used was purchased with philanthropic funds. The Deeley Centre is named after significant donor, Trev Deeley.

Donors have been watching for years to see the fabulous breakthroughs the Deeley Research Centre is pioneering.

It is definitely long overdue to have ongoing government funding, but in the meantime give some thanks and recognition to the many donors involved.

Martha MacTavish

Cowichan Bay

Lots of rhetoric but no real solution

Re: “With housing policies, Eby on ­dangerous path,” letter, Nov. 17.

The letter uses sharply-worded rhetoric – “theft,” “dangerous,” “ill-considered,” “autocratic” – much like a politician. And noticeably it offers no solution, like a politician.

I’m offended, though, with the assertion of “Canadian democracy and property aspirations” as if the writer speaks for me, and as if the totality of our aspirations is property-based.

Our democracy is not under assault. Whether you call us a social democracy or a mixed-market with safety nets, we’re both liberal and egalitarian, meaning we provide what the market can’t for those in need.

The fabric of our country is stitched together with socialist policy.

The NDP has failed before to adequately consult, as do all governments. But ramped-up rhetoric from the citizenry doesn’t help students or single mothers pay their market-inflated rent.

The writer is fortunate to have a solution for his problem, and that’s his right and freedom to vote, something that many around the world are beginning to lose.

P.J. Smith

Mayne Island

Utilities or taxation? The choice in Saanich

Transparency in Saanich? How will mounting infrastructure costs be paid for? Will it be through direct taxation, or will it be through utilities accounts? Saanich residents ought to know.

At the Nov. 6 committee of the whole meeting, a discussion took place regarding the way the public will be taxed for mounting costs related to increased infrastructure requirements that will result from the district’s current model.

These increases would help propel a projected skyrocketing debt, running into hundreds of millions of dollars. An increase in utilities costs, rather than direct taxation, was the direction indicated that night.

Well, which will it be? Should the residents be left with a mounting utilities bill in order to pay for long-term projected debt?

Should the district be transparent with its added taxation instead, through the regular practice of direct taxation?

Should the district alter its model, or generate a business plan so that residents are not left to foot a massive tax increase beyond the rate of inflation, in order to pay for long-term projected debt?

Sasha Izard


Action, not complaints, will bring more housing

The recent uptick in socially tone-deaf opinion pieces and letters lashing out against the province’s new legislation on housing has led me to my keyboard.

It’s always the same argument, “We have a housing crisis, but the legislative changes won’t solve the problem.”

It’s always “More consultation with the public, the communities, and the municipalities is what’s missing.”

It’s always “these rushed policies spell disaster for the province.”

As far as I’m concerned, you had your chance to get involved. But instead, you chose to do nothing.

You sat back, twiddled your thumbs, and occasionally agreed with a new policy, with the caveat that it’s NIMBY. Now that legislation is being mandated there is a sudden appreciation for the issue at hand.

You fearmonger with talks of tsunamis of demolition, construction, and climate catastrophes, with overflowing landfills, and the crashing of entire systems of infrastructure.

It reads straight out of a poorly written fiction novel.

The next time you go to complain about staff shortages at B.C. Ferries, or the local hospitals, you should first ask yourself, “where would all these people live?” Follow that with “what can I do, as an upstanding citizen to help alleviate this housing dilemma?”

Braydon Pino



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