Posted September 15th, 2022

A better future for housing is possible

Like many other cities across North America, Saanich is facing a housing crisis that threatens the future of the district.

Young professionals are being forced to move off-island in pursuit of an affordable life. Seniors are struggling to survive off pensions that no longer cover the basics. Students are deferring their studies because they can’t find a place to live.

Continuing the status quo would mean an increasingly unaffordable region that lacks a workforce to sustain it. Taking bold, decisive action to solve this crisis would mean a thriving, sustainable region that boasts a strong economy, fantastic quality of life, and a real future for our youngest generations.

How do we solve a crisis that’s decades in the making?

It’s clear that the status quo isn’t working. Incremental change isn’t either.

Solving the housing crisis will require leadership, bold action, and a willingness to experiment when the answers aren’t clear. Other cities are paving the way: we must follow their example.

Getting the simple steps done right away

Many of the steps we need to take to solve this crisis require deliberation and study. Yet, there are a whole host of clear, straightforward actions Council can take at the start of our term that will have a dramatic impact in the years to come. In my first 100 days, I will prioritize those actions. They include:

  • expediting the Saanich Housing Strategy to be fully implemented by 2026 – four years ahead of schedule – and allocating the appropriate funds to do so,

  • ending costly parking mandates across the district,

  • delegating every OCP-compliant rezoning to staff, and

  • legalizing townhouses, multiplexes, and small apartment buildings in every neighbourhood within Saanich’s Urban Containment Boundary.

Investing in our next generation of workers

Our housing crisis is exacerbated by a shortage of qualified tradespeople, and our post-secondary institutions are not training young people fast enough to fill these roles. To ensure Saanich can meet our current and future housing needs, I will prioritize:

  • partnering with the province to expand training and degree programs related to housing construction, and

  • building thousands of student housing units on and around our post-secondary campuses to give young people homes while they study.

Giving an advantage to social housing

Nonprofit, co-op, and public housing are the best options we have for creating true affordability in Saanich. As such, I will help give these projects an advantage over market developers by prioritizing:

  • fast-tracking approvals,

  • waiving development fees,

  • awarding bonus density,

  • bypassing public hearings, and

  • purchasing, assembling, and donating land.

Ending homelessness and housing insecurity

Housing is a human right: everyone needs access to safe, secure, affordable homes. Displacement and homelessness upend lives, and we must prevent them wherever possible.

To improve the safety and security of every Greater Victorian, I will prioritize:

  • enacting tenant assistance policies to prevent displacement and give renters security when their buildings are redeveloped,

  • incentivizing multifamily housing where it doesn't currently exist to prevent the unnecessary redevelopment of existing rental stock, and

  • expanding and expediting the CRD’s housing-first strategy to ensure everyone experiencing homelessness has access to temporary modular housing within six months and is permanently housed by 2025.

Building homes for everyone

Our current housing supply is failing so many people. Parents are struggling to find large enough homes for their growing families. Older adults looking to downsize have few options within their neighbourhoods. Seniors and disabled people face challenges finding accessible homes that meet their needs.

We can't solve our housing shortage with studios and one-bedrooms. We need a diversity of housing options to meet a variety of needs.

To ensure more people can access homes that suit their needs, I will prioritize:

  • partnering with nonprofits and higher levels of government to build affordable, accessible social housing that suits a broad range of access needs,

  • incentivizing ground-oriented townhouses and multiplexes that give families space to grow,

  • creating a municipal accessibility office that helps construction companies build accessible homes, and

  • redesigning every street that supports higher-density housing, making them places that prioritize people, community, and quality of life.

Removing barriers to housing construction

Our current housing policies and guidelines have been built up over decades and rarely revisited. The result? Hundreds of different zones, design requirements, and restrictions that make it harder to build the housing we need at a price we can afford.

Furthermore, the slow response time to rezoning applications and building permits often delays projects by years. This adds enormous costs to new housing while delaying much-needed homes for people.

The sheer complexity of the system keeps out all but the largest companies who can afford to navigate the system, leaving behind the Mom and Pop builders who could bring so much creativity and life to Saanich.

To simplify our system and create more homes for our residents, I will prioritize:

  • forming a task force to identify and remove bylaws and design guidelines that impede new housing construction,

  • bringing motions to adopt the task force’s recommendations regularly,

  • establishing guaranteed processing times for all rezoning applications and building permits that will be continuously decreased, reaching a 12-week guarantee by 2026,

  • assigning dedicated staff members to manage major projects, ensuring new housing doesn’t get lost in the system, and

  • creating staff positions to help small businesses and homeowners navigate the approvals process.

Fixing the public consultation process

In a democracy, everyone should have an equal vote and equal representation. Right now, our public consultation process falls far from that standard.

Though Saanich consults thousands of people when revising its Official Community Plan, housing projects are decided at weeknight hearings based on the comments of a handful of community members.

Other cities have recognized the shortcomings of public hearings and created alternatives. I would follow their lead by:

  • establishing a demographically representative citizen’s council on housing to augment our current public consultation processes and provide guidance on future housing initiatives.

Curtailing Airbnb and other short-term rentals

Companies like Airbnb are removing homes from the rental supply and increasing housing costs for everyone. To curtail these practices, I will prioritize:

  • expanding short-term rental restrictions and proactively enforcing them, and

  • requiring licenses for short-term rentals that must be displayed in every online listing.

Establishing a framework for housing approvals

Too many large projects are facilitated through backroom deals and questionable practices. I want everyone to know where I stand on housing: developers and residents alike. For that reason, I will:

  • publish a framework that will guide my decisions on every housing project brought before Council so that it’s always clear which projects I will and won’t support, and

  • update my framework annually to reflect changing housing needs and market realities.

Conclusion

Is this platform ambitious? Absolutely. It needs to be.

If we don’t take immediate, systemic action on housing, we risk losing everything we love about Saanich.

If we do take action, Saanich will be better for everyone.

The future is in our hands. Let’s build it together.

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