Fifteen units with below-market rent are being promised as part of a new 148-unit highrise condo building in the 900-block of Pandora Avenue across from the Our Place Society drop-in centre.
Kang and Gill Construction is offering the units to rent at 15 per cent below the market rate in its proposal for a 11-storey mixed-use residential over ground floor commercial building at 926 and 932 Pandora Ave.
The below-market units, representing 10 per cent of units, would be on top of an estimated $614,000 in amenity contributions required due to the increase in land value from rezoning.
“I think it’s great and it’s a voluntary contribution,” said Mayor Lisa Helps.
“Obviously, they see a need in the community and putting these below-market units in is a voluntary contribution.”
Councillors will decide today whether to send the proposal to public hearing.
The proposal comes two weeks after the development community raised concerns about councillor proposals to mandate between 10 and 15 per cent of all new condos in Victoria be built as affordable rental.
The Urban Development Institute warned it was unaffordable and if approved would see development in the city grind to a stop.
In face of the backlash, Victoria councillors decided to continue working with stakeholders on developing a new policy by March 31 and, as an interim measure, directed staff to negotiate with development applicants for an affordable component or cash-in-lieu feature.
“One of the things I think this draws attention to is the signal that the market can bear an inclusionary housing policy that mandates affordability in all newly rezoned projects,” said Coun. Jeremy Loveday.
While commending the applicant for voluntarily offering the below-market units, Loveday said the proposed inclusionary housing policy would have required 15 per cent.
Helps noted that the below-market rental units being proposed wouldn’t meet the definition of “affordable” that the three Together Victoria councillors are proposing. They would define affordable as a price that does not exceed 30 per cent of the gross annual household income for moderate-income, low-to-moderate, low and very-low-income households.
“These units proposed by Kang and Gill wouldn’t be considered ‘affordable’ in terms of the city’s pending new definition of affordability but they certainly would be considered below market,” Helps said.
“My feeling is that we will certainly welcome any and all units that are rental, below market, affordable or market,” she said.
But Loveday said any time the city is looking at unit affordability, the threshold should be geared to the incomes of potential tenants, not to a percentage of market rent.
“With this one I would love to see these units geared to income rather than 15 per cent below market because 15 per cent below market on a new-build housing project will not be affordable for many of our residents,” Loveday said.
The units in the Kang and Gill condo building would range from studios to three-bedrooms with den. Seven of the affordable units would be two- and three-bedroom units suitable for families.
Five two-storey townhouses with private entrances from Mason Street are part of the development.
The proposal calls for the commercial and retail space to be accessed from Pandora, with the residences’ primary entrance on Mason. A secondary entrance for residents would be via a breezeway from Pandora.
A total of 118 parking stalls are planned, in excess of the 90 required, along with 178 long-term bike stalls and 18 short-term bike stalls.
Under current zoning, the property could host a five-storey building with residential units over commercial space.