New construction is going up all over Greater Victoria and the building boom is going to get even bigger after an unprecedented $90 million investment in new rental housing.

“People have to be willing to allow a bit more density to help people in need,” says Steve Price, Sidney mayor and chair of the Capital Regional District (CRD) board.

The project ? funded by all three levels of government and aimed at reducing chronic homelessness ? will create more than 2,000 rental units and require 30 to 40 new buildings across the Capital Regional District. But there’s a catch ? they have to be built in the next four years or $30 million in federal funding will be lost.

“I think they’ll be hard-pressed to do that,” says Vancouver Island Construction Association CEO Rory Kulmala. “It’s a stretch to say the least. Any project can take up to 18 to 24 months to construct and it’s going to be a challenge given we’re already facing labour shortages.”

That’s why the CRD and B.C. Housing plan to get creative, not only acquiring land and developing their own projects but also partnering with developers and non-profits, who would operate many of the buildings.

Potential partners like Pacifica Housing are excited and say it’s doable.

“I’m loaded up, I’m planning, and I figure every other non-profit is doing the same thing,” says Dean Fortin of Pacifica Housing. “Yes, there’s going to be difficulties in finding the architects and the construction and finding the land but what a glorious opportunity we have to provide housing for people.”

Due to the construction crunch, housing officials will also look at buying entire rental buildings under construction or buying floors on buildings currently under development or that will be built soon.

“I think if they can find them and buy them, it’s a step in the right direction,” Kulmala says. “It’s still not going to meet their needs. They will still have more projects to build so I think realistically, it could take up to eight years instead of four.”

The selection process has already started and seven proposals are currently being reviewed. Two others ? one in Victoria and one on Salt Spring Island ? are underway and they’ll be another call for proposals in the fall.

The criteria for land acquisitions is that it must be within a kilometre of transit and close to community amenities. It’s too soon to say when the first rentals will be ready.

Tess van Straaten