Plans for an affordable housing project have passed council almost exactly one year after the project suffered a major setback.
Council Monday unanimously approved plans for the re-development of Townley Lodge following a public hearing. “The result we see today is quite remarkable,” said Coun. Fred Haynes.”Thank you everyone for putting in such Herculian efforts to keep affordable housing possible on this site.”
The approved development will see the Greater Victoria Housing Society create 64 affordable housing units for seniors, families, and the disabled across four housing types, including a four-storey apartment, on the current side of Townley Lodge. GVHS has run the affordable housing complex since 1967.
Earlier plans to re-develop the site though faced public opposition from residents, and the project faced an uncertain future after council postponed a public hearing for the project.
This decision drew criticism from an unusual coalition of business interests and social justice advocates. Several councillors countered this criticism by noting that council followed due process, and that the proponent had failed to secure social licence from the neighbourhood.
Following the postponement, GVHS considered selling the property, then re-invest proceeds into affordable housing projects elsewhere. However, the project received a renewed lease on life in the spring of 2017 following meetings between GVHS and neighbourhood leaders, and the revised proposal responds to the criticisms aired in late 2016.
Kaye Melliship, GVHS’ executive director, said the revised proposal addresses all significant concerns heard last year, including height and orientation. It will help increase the supply of affordable housing in the community, she said.
Rents for the 54 senior units will be no more than 80 per cent of current private market rental rates, she said. “In fact, most of them will be well below that rate,” she said.
As for the 10 family townhouses, rents will absorb less than 30 per cent of pre-tax household income, the threshold for housing considered affordable.
Coun. Susan Brice praised GVHS’ decision to revise what she described was a “fundamentally flawed” project in calling it a “bold move” that must have required a lot of soul-searching.
‘The object is affordable housing that is environmentally sound, and is comptabible with the neighbourhood, and that is exactly what we have with this project,” she aid.
Coun. Karen Harper, who participated in the consultations between the community and GVHS as part of the Camosun Community Association before winning election to council, said the process leading to revised proposal offers lessons for future projects.