Victoria builder says amalgamation would make homes cheaper

Victoria builder says amalgamation would make homes cheaper

Amalgamation is a debate that’s been unrelenting between Saanich and Victoria since the turn of the century, and the Victoria Residential Builders Association (VRBA) is bringing it once again to the forefront, saying it would make homes more affordable.

“Right now municipalities are ratcheting up the price of housing, making it unaffordable, in addition to high interest rates,” said Casey Edge, executive director of the VRBA.

Edge says that although the province is trying to standardize housing rules across the province, the changes also allow municipalities to boost some of the other costs associated with new development, which isn’t exactly helping to keep costs low.

“Just about two weeks ago Oak Bay wanted to ratchet up the cost of rock blasting. It would have cost additional thousands and thousands of additional dollars,” Edge said.

“The District of Saanich has told us they are taking the floor space calculation from the exterior of the cladding (the outermost covering on an exterior wall). The B.C. Building Code says no it’s from the wall to the wall, not the exterior cladding. There are these things that the consumer doesn’t experience and they don’t see all these obstructions.”

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Edge says that municipalities are now increasing their development cost charges or DCC’s, to pass off some of the cost of things like fire stations, police stations and water filtration plants onto the developers. He says that cost will only mean increased prices for consumers.

“This layering on of costs onto new housing, it’s no wonder that B.C. has some of the highest priced homes in Canada,” said Edge.

As a result, he argues the region should start seriously considering amalgamation.

The conversation to unify the four core fire departments is already underway 

Saanich’s Mayor Dean Murdock, under the direction of his council, has written Victoria, Oak Bay and Esquimalt councils and fire chiefs to see if merging makes sense.

“I’d like to get us to a place that no matter where a fire is, the closest fire truck will respond,” said Murdock.

RELATED: Saanich explores idea of unifying fire departments with Victoria, Esquimalt and Oak Bay

Saanich Fire Department Chief Michael Kaye says amalgamation could help solve some issues.

“We don’t meet the minimum standard for a high rise fire,” said Kaye, noting not just Saanich, but the region, doesn’t have enough firefighters to meet the national standards needed to fight a tower fire.

As cities across B.C. are being mandated by the province to densify, Victoria’s Mayor Marianne Alto says it makes sense.

“Emergency response to me just seems like an obvious one,” said Alto.

On regional amalgamation though the mayors are keeping their cards close

“I think it’s well worth exploring,” said Murdock.

Alto says it’s too early to say what outcome it could have.

“Is there an argument to be made there is cohesiveness, what that looks like? I don’t know yet,” said Alto.

And though the conversation has been happening for a century there hasn’t been a referendum on it since 1962.

That may change in June next year, when a citizen’s assembly will make recommendations that could lead to the province calling a referendum.

“A citizens’ assembly is a chance to kind of reset on the issue, to hear from experts,” said Peter MacLeod, with MASS LBP, who is chairing the committee.

Edge says in this housing crisis, amalgamation would offer builders predictability, therefore affordability, for buyers.

READ PREVIOUS: Victoria and Saanich select team to lead citizens’ assembly on amalgamation

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