Victoria city councillor Ben Isitt says he would like the city to buy land to use for affordable housing, paid for by other levels of government.

Isitt said the status quo isn’t working.

“The developers have been in the saddle for decades, and look how big a housing crisis we have,” he said. “The private sector is not providing secure and affordable housing to the poorer half of the population.”

If approved, it would be the first large-scale project of its kind in Victoria.

Land would be held in perpetuity and leased to non-profit housing providers.

“What I’d like to see is each of the buildings would be a mix of units All the way from rents at $375 a month to rents at just below market,” said Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps.

Eventually, the idea is to have thousands of units across dozens of buildings, located mostly north of downtown and along major corridors.

Proponents say it’s a smart investment for the future, though some say it isn’t without risk.

“We do have significant demand right now, but that can turn around pretty quickly,” said Victoria Residential Builders Association Executive Director Casey Edge. “And the question is, do the taxpayers want to be left holding the bag?”

But supporters say doing nothing is also hurting the economy.

“We know that some businesses are having to close their doors because there isn’t adequate housing for lower, midrange jobs, and we know that that’s part of the whole functioning economy,” said councillor-elect Sarah Potts.

In a statement, B.C.’s housing minister said:

“All levels of government need to work together to tackle the housing crisis. Our government has made it a priority and has committed more than $7 billion over the next 10 years to build affordable housing. I’ve been encouraging municipalities that want to work with us to provide housing to come to the table with land and am glad to see Victoria looking at the opportunity. Working together, we can build the homes that communities across B.C. need.”

The city will begin updating its housing strategy next month.

Calvin To