Opinions mixed on affordable housing for artists in Victoria

WatchA Victoria councillor's motion to bring affordable housing specifically to artists is causing a stir in the city. Some are applauding the decision, while others are questioning if it's the right move. Julian Kolsut reports.

A motion put forward by a City of Victoria councillor for affordable housing for artists is getting a mixed response.

Councillor Jeremy Loveday put forward a motion to provide affordable housing to artists. It would see staff make the goal of creating housing for artists part of the Victoria Housing Strategy.

The city’s mayor says it has been in the works for years. They have five residential live-work spaces for low-income artists and rent is around 300 to 500 dollars a month.

“The city spent two years engaging with the arts and culture community, and we created Create Victoria, our arts and culture master plan,” said Mayor Lisa Helps.

“In that strategy, it recommends affordable housing for artists. I think there was an oversight when we did the housing strategy to not simply link those two policies together, so for me, this is a housekeeping motion.”

The City of Vancouver has had its affordable housing for artists program in place since 1995.

“That sounds like a great idea, we need artists,” said one Victoria resident.

“I think that is very inclusive,” said another.

The master plan was adopted back in 2017. But not everyone is one board.

“It would be very nice, but I don’t think it is practical,” said one Victoria resident.

“I think it is absolutely ridiculous, with all the homeless people sleeping on the street,” said another.

Councillor Geoff Young says it’s the wrong move in the midst of the housing crisis.

“There is the first issue of principle of should we be favouring some groups over others,” said Young.

“And the second of practicality who do you select people. It is not easy to say who is the better artist when you are selecting them.”

Young says the city is already creating affordable housing and supporting the arts.

“We have our two artists in residence, we have the people managing that program, we have a public art program. We spend 750 thousand dollars a year on the McPherson alone… I would say we are devoting a fairly substantial resources to the arts,” added Young.

But the mayor is pushing back against the criticism saying the economic and social benefits justify the move.

“Everybody loves the symphony, everyone loves the ballet, everyone loves the opera, those people don’t make a lot of money. I am sure everyone in the city enjoys arts and culture and yeah its a huge economic benefit, but it’s a huge sense of who we are as humans,” added Helps.

Council will consider the motion at its next meeting on Thursday.

Julian KolsutJulian Kolsut

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