Victoria council’s housing measures aim for ‘bold action’

Victoria’s newly elected council is wasting no time looking for ways to introduce more affordability into the city’s housing market.

Five housing initiatives are being proposed by councillors this week, ranging from establishing a renters’ advisory committee to land-banking for affordable housing.

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“I think what it shows is what we heard out there on the doorstep, which is affordability is the biggest issue that needs to be addressed,” said Mayor Lisa Helps.

“As I said all along the campaign trail: No more tinkering. Bold action is required.”

Helps said housing needs run across the spectrum, from ending homelessness to providing housing for families and working people.

The proposals include:

• Councillors Jeremy Loveday and Sharmarke Dubow are recommending forming a renters’ advisory committee made up of renters and tenant advocates to advise council on affordable-housing policy.

• Councillors Ben Isitt, Loveday, Laurel Collins and Sarah Potts are behind the idea of land-banking for affordable housing. They recommend council endorse in principle acquisition of land “on a priority basis” to facilitate regional and senior-government investment in non-market housing and to direct staff to report back by Dec. 13 on options for financing.

• Loveday and Isitt are recommending council strengthen its emphasis on affordable housing by using an interim inclusive housing-density bonus policy as the foundation for negotiations with developers, appeal to the B.C. Assessment Authority to class as commercial any condo units being used as short-term vacation rentals, robustly enforce short-term vacation regulations as of Jan. 1 and conduct a town hall meeting and technical workshop on the future of co-operative housing, in partnership with the Co-operative Housing Federation of B.C.

• Collins, Potts and Dubow are recommending that council direct staff to report back with amendments to the city’s housing strategy and applicable bylaws and policies to “incentivize and mandate” creation of two- and three-bedroom rental units as part of a larger strategy to increase affordable housing options.

• Collins, Potts and Dubow are recommending council adopt a definition of affordable housing for use in the development and rezoning process.

They are suggesting that the cost not exceed 30 per cent of the annual gross income of a low- or moderate-income household, or rental costs that are less than 80 per cent of the median market rent, whichever is less.

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