The City of Victoria approved a new privately-run development in downtown Victoria on Thursday, which is expected to create about 121 affordable rental housing units, 54 of which would be co-living spaces.
In the building there will be 67 units which the developer is calling traditional homes, where it would be a self-contained rental suite.
The co-living spaces would have shared kitchens and living areas, and some would have shared bathrooms.
Some apartments will have one or two bedrooms, while other units will have up to five bedrooms, explained Victoria mayor Lisa Helps.
“It’ll essentially be roommates. They’ll all have their own rooms. They’ll have a shared kitchen,” she said.
But poverty advocate Douglas King said building more units isn’t the solution to the city’s housing crisis.
“Low-income people haven’t had access to this new development, to these new units, this affordable housing. What they want is the lower rent in their own housing that they have right now,” he said.
With the Capital region becoming an even more expensive place to live, approving the development is just one of the ways the city hopes to tackle the housing crisis.
“When we see enough supply on the market, rents do start to drop,” Helps said.
But the cost of renting an apartment continues to climb, making Victoria the third most expensive city in the country, according to Zumper, a rental listing website.
The company reports that rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Victoria increased by 15 per cent in the past year.
The median price for a one-bedroom in Victoria for January 2022 is listed at $1,840, which is a 4.5 per cent increase from December 2021, and a 14.3 per cent increase since January 2021.
The communal living set-up of the new development is concerning for King, who is the executive director of Together Against Poverty.
He said low-income individuals want the same type of housing that everyone else does.
“They want their own suites. They don’t want to live in co-housing situations or co-living situations,” said King.
“They shouldn’t have to compromise and accept a co-living situation just because they can’t afford regular housing.”
While it’s currently unclear how much rent will be for these new communal living spaces that will be run by developer Townline, the city is confident supplying more units is one approach to lowering rent.
King believes more focus should instead be made on vacancy and rent control in existing buildings.