Some time over the next three months, Saanich staff expect to present council with options to amend a 26-year-old housing bylaw. The University of Victoria Student Society (UVSS) voted on Nov. 4 to urge Saanich to make changes to the 1993 bylaw. The society wants to work with the District to raise the limit to the number of unrelated people permitted to house share in a single dwelling, something it said negatively impacts students at UVic.
This comes nine months after a group of seven female University of Victoria students were evicted from their seven bedroom house due to a complaint that the number of people living in the home contravened the bylaw.
The bylaw states “where a dwelling unit is occupied by two or more people not related by blood or marriage” the total number including boarders, “shall not exceed four.”
In 1993, the bylaw was amended to reduce the limit from six to four, but no one seems to know why, said Saanich Mayor Fred Haynes.
Haynes also said this carries implications for all who house share, not just students. “These are groups coming together out of necessity, ” Haynes said. “It affects seniors, working families, and single parents trying to find housing as well, not just students.”
Haynes said he hopes Saanich council can address fears that higher occupancy homes will lead to more unsightly or unkempt properties, parking issues and noise. He said there are already bylaws in place to address those behaviours in the community.
Coun. Zac de Vries, who studied geography and political science with a focus on housing at the University of Victoria, said there’s a “misnomer” that more people means more cars. He said the two issues are correlated, but one does not cause the other. For example, he said he has seen single families with multiple cars, and house share situations where tenants only had one car because they were able to live closer to campus.
“What the information is telling me from looking at this file so far is that we can effectively find a solution that addresses both neighborhood behaviour and affordability,” de Vries said.
UVSS Director of Outreach and University Relations Jonathan Granirer said the society got involved because it saw an opportunity to “positively impact” changes to the Saanich bylaw. “This is a housing crisis, and Saanich has been making progress, but it’s still happening and more needs to be done,” Granirer said.
Granirer urges residents to email Saanich to be heard before the options are presented to council or attend the meeting where the options are discussed.