A forum tentatively scheduled for next month promises to identify “opportunities” to increase housing availability in Saanich.
The forum planned for May 4 at the Garth Homer Centre would bring “together community and industry expertise to identify challenges to increasing housing availability and housing affordability in Saanich, and opportunities to address them,” according to an advanced copy describing the proposed forum.
Expected costs of the one-day event would be $10,000. Council will consider the proposed forum at its next meeting Monday.
While details of the forum await final confirmation, the release says hosting a forum is “considered an important and appropriate first step to signal this [council] ’s interest in housing as a priority.”
The forum would be “just the first of many actions” council will “consider taking to prioritize housing in response to high profile discussions related to housing during the 2018 civic elections,” as well as the results of Saanich’s Citizen Survey.
It found 47 per cent of participants said they were either “not very satisfied” (32 per cent) or “not at all satisfied” (15 per cent) with Saanich’s current policies that encourage affordable housing. Forty-two per cent said they were “somewhat satisfied” with 11 per cent saying they were “satisfied”.
No policy area received a lower satisfaction rating in the statistically significant survey, which asked 1,022 randomly selected Saanich residents between Jan. 21 and Feb. 1, some three months after the current council assumed office.
The same survey also found almost one in four respondents (22 per cent) identified housing as the single most important issue facing Saanich. No other area received a higher rating.
Saanich’s announcement about the forum comes as one of its organizers — Coun. Zac de Vries — is pushing back on comments from critics about Saanich’s approach towards housing.
Former councillor candidate Teale Phelps Bondaroff earlier questioned Saanich’s approach towards housing, but de Vries disagrees. “He suggested that Saanich is doing nothing to address affordable housing which is untrue,” said De Vries.
Saanich has long contributed to several housing funds, he said, while acknowledging that is not enough.
“That is why I moved we allocate an additional $500,000 from last year’s surplus to leverage provincial and federal funds for affordable housing initiatives,” he said. “We have also directed $1 million into the council strategic initiative fund which will be used to address housing, climate change, environment, and other pressing issues.”
Addressing the housing crisis requires policy changes, and Saanich is currently identifying and working on using available levers to create more affordable housing, he said.