Decision on Victoria’s Missing Middle Housing Initiative referred to next mayor, council

Decision on Victoria's Missing Middle Housing Initiative referred to next mayor, council

Victoria council has left the fate of the divisive Missing Middle Housing Initiative up to the city’s next mayor and council.

Since November 2019, the city has been floating the idea of cutting red tape for rezoning single-family homes to add denser housing options like houseplexes and corner townhouses, a move city staff say will make it easier for young and first-time home buyers to enter an increasingly unattainable market.

Council was expected to make a final decision on the initiative Thursday, but it instead voted 5-4 to approve a referral motion to delay a vote until after the Oct. 15 civic election.

Under the referral motion, the issue will be raised once again at a Committee of the Whole meeting at some point in the last quarter of 2022, after a virtually new council and mayor will take over — and after the province is expected to enact new legislation in regards to increasing housing supply.

Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps amended the motion first put forward by Coun. Ben Isitt to put off the vote, but did so reluctantly, saying she’d prefer council pass the current policy instead.

“At least the next council can start with all of the insights that have been gained from the public over these last three years,” she said, even though ultimately she voted against the referral.

Voting in favour, Isitt was once again vocal about wanting to effectively make Missing Middle an election issue. He also repeated his criticisms of the existing motion saying it did not do enough to address issues of affordability.

“This variant of missing middle does not differentiate between the housing we want, affordable housing, and the housing developers want, expensive housing that will generate the highest profit,” he said.

Coun. Charlayne Thornton-Joe said she was not prepared to vote in favour of the policy, but supported the motion to refer it to the next council, adding she was “frustrated” with the process.

“I feel like we’re workshopping this policy at the eleventh hour, which I certainly don’t think is a good process to have,” she said.

Other councillors, like Marianne Alto and Jeremy Loveday, said it was wrong to once again delay a decision on the policy when action is needed now.

“I would hope that what we ant to do as a council…is to try and seize every opportunity we have at our disposal to manage the change that is inevtiably coming,” said Alto. “I don’t think we can wait, I don’t think we should wait.”

Loveday said the policy has been a strategic priority of council for years.

“It’s been years’ worth of work to get us to this day today, where we’re finally making a decision, and I think we should make a decision,” he said.

Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps, Alto, Loveday and Sarah Potts voted against the referral motion, while Isitt, Thornton-Joe, Geoff Young, Sharmarke Dubow and Stephen Andrew voted in favour.

The Missing Middle Housing Initiative is a proposal to effectively rezone all single-family zoned properties to allow more types of housing to be built without requiring developments to go through a rezoning process.

With the current zoning, if someone wanted to build a duplex or townhouses on a lot zoned for single-family homes, the applicant would have to go through a rezoning process, which takes six to eight months, according to the City of Victoria.

With files from CHEK’s Laura Brougham.

Jeff LawrenceJeff Lawrence

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