Saanich might be the largest municipality in Greater Victoria, but it will receive the lowest per-capita share of new affordable housing announced earlier this week, prompting some level of local criticism. But Saanich has also been on the receiving end of provincial support.
Saanich will receive 85 of the 4,900 “new affordable mixed-income rental homes” the provincial government announced Tuesday under the Building BC: Community Housing Fund. Victoria, Esquimalt, and Langford by comparison will each receive 558, 161, and 80 units.
These figures mean Esquimalt (pop: 17,665) will receive the highest per capita share with about 91 units per 10,000, followed by Victoria with 65 units per 10,000 and Langford (population: 35,342) with almost 23 units per 10,000. Saanich (114,148) will receive about 7.4 units per 10,000.
Provincial officials have pointed out that BC Housing selects projects through a tendering process and the 85 units coming to Saanich stem from one of two submitted bids. Officials also noted that B.C. Housing is currently evaluating dozens of other proposals, resulting in additional announcements with an other request for proposals anticipated for spring 2020.
Early reactions from members of council to these specific figures differ.
Coun. Nathalie Chambers questioned Saanich’s share. It is “very unfair” considering its size, she said. Saanich’s “very obvious housing crisis” is getting worse, she said. “Are we just supposed to say, ‘Oh, go to Esquimalt or Victoria, they got the majority of the housing?’ Tent cities are popping up in our protective and conservation areas like Cuthbert Holmes.”
Their presence represent a cost and confirm Saanich’s lack of appropriate housing for individuals with addictions and mental health challenges, she said.
“I don’t see any problem because the affordable housing issue is regional in nature,” said Coun. Susan Brice. “People move throughout the region and it’s important that there are options to meet their changing needs. The province and the [Capital Regional District] working with the not-for-profit sector are adding to the affordable housing stock in this area and this is good for the Greater Victoria area.”
”Clearly we have some catching up to do,” said Coun. Ned Taylor. “The lack of affordable housing in Saanich is one of the main reasons I ran for office. There are literally thousands of people in my generation who are barely able to afford renting an illegal basement suite with multiple roommates and poor living conditions — we have to do better.”
Total funding for the Saanich units add to $8.5 million with the money flowing towards Dawson Heights Housing Ltd., which plans to re-develop Dawson Heights’ cottages.
Saanich Mayor Fred Hayne welcomed the province’s announcement.
“I think as a region we are all delighted, and collectively appreciate [Premier John Horgan] and the province stepping up to address housing supply,” he said.
Premier John Horgan said in a release Tuesday that this program ends years of inaction left families struggling to get by and unable to get ahead. “These new, affordable rental homes are an important step toward addressing the housing crisis and giving families in every part of the province a break from skyrocketing housing costs,” he said.
Pointing to the UVic announcement, local MLA Rob Fleming also added that the province is a part of the Nigel Valley re-development.
“Together with the proposed Nigel Valley development, today’s UVic student housing announcement and the Dawson Heights redevelopment, Saanich will net an additional 1,283 units of market, affordable and supportive housing. This is a huge step towards making life more affordable for people in Saanich and addressing the housing crisis,” he said.