At the core of Central Saanich’s history and character is farming, with more than 150 farms, stretching more than 1,000 hectares in the community. But much like the rest of British Columbia, Central Saanich is contending with a housing crisis.
“You don’t want to see the agricultural land turned into housing. But we need housing, it’s a mess,” said Central Saanich resident Marie Osborne. “We need both, that’s the problem.”
In a bid for balance, Central Saanich council is asking for public input on the possible rezoning of Agricultural Reserve Land (ALR). In a new survey, residents are being asked how far they’d like to see restrictions on secondary suites relaxed.
Provincial changes to the ALR in 2021 meant ALR landowners could have a small secondary residence on their property like a carriage house. Now, Central Saanich is undertaking a process to make sure its bylaws reflect the provincial changes.
“We’ve taken it further and we’re taking a look at secondary suites as well,” said Central Saanich Mayor Ryan Windsor.
The municipality is in the process of eliminating its secondary suite size restriction, while also considering allowing up to three suites on a single ALR or rural property – including a principal dwelling, a secondary suite in a principal dwelling, and a detached accessory dwelling, such as a cottage or a carriage house.
“Without changing the dynamic of our community, but address that we are short of housing,” said Windsor.
They’re changes some co-op farmers support, with one caveat.
“We do need more housing on farmland because we need to house more farmers on the land,” said Heather Pritchard with Foodlands Co-Op of B.C. “Provided that’s the way they’re moving towards, I’m in support of that.”
While canvassing the neighbourhood in Central Saanich Wednesday, support for change was strong.
“Bring it on, there’s a lot of land that could be used wisely,” said resident Lori Orr.
“Housing’s needed for sure,” said community member Louise Edgington.
One Central Saanich councillor says he’s been hearing the calls for years.
“If there’s one criticism I have as a councillor, it’s not moving fast enough,” said Central Saanich Coun. Niall Paltiel.
“It’s been very often that we’ve [been] called around flexibility to provide housing for their workers, for their families, and I applaud the province for getting this going, now it’s time for Central Saanich to stand up,” he said.
Saanich Peninsula residents can have their say on what they think the right balance is between housing and farming in the online survey until Dec. 15.