Victoria city council says it has approved 72 new housing units for low-income and vulnerable residents at two properties: one in James Bay and one in the Burnside-Gorge neighbourhood.
The decision was made at the council meeting on Oct. 22, 2020. One property will be at 330 Michigan Street and the other at 736 Princess Avenue.
The new housing development on Princess Avenue will be owned and operated by the Victoria branch of the John Howard Society and will remain rental and affordable at very low-income levels for at least 60 years, according to the city.
“This project is more than simply supportive housing. It brings job readiness and life skills training, counselling and supportive housing under one roof to enable clients to become contributing members to their community. Our approach speaks to the principle that the true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members,” Manj Toor, executive director of the John Howard Society, said in a statement.
“We’re grateful to council for approving this project and giving us an opportunity to not only support people to have better lives but to enrich our community at the same time.”
The new building will have a ground floor coffee shop and art gallery, which will be used for the John Howard Society’s employment readiness program and allow local artists to showcase and sell their art.
In addition, approximately 46 percent of the total floor area will be dedicated to commercial and community services for jobs in the neighbourhood. The city said there will be employment training and community services for residents and clients who are supported by the John Howard Society.
“This is another important step forward to providing people options for a roof over their head and a safe secure place to call home,” Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps said in a statement.
“I also appreciate the John Howard Society leading the way in providing five of the 28 units that exceed the accessibility requirements of the British Columbia Building Code and providing such inclusive homes and reducing barriers for people.”
The current affordable housing complex on Michigan Street is owned and operated by the Capital Regional Housing Corporation (CRHC) and has four multi-family residential buildings. CRHC will retain the heritage building and demolish three old buildings to make way for two new four-story multi-family buildings for a total of 106 units, a net increase of 44.
“I have had the pleasure of seeing this exciting project develop through its various stages, and to see it taking its next step to completion is very gratifying for the CRHC,” David Screech, Mayor of View Royal and vice-chair of the CRHC Board, said in a statement. “With this decision, more seniors, families, those in need of provincial assistance and those with a range of abilities will be able to find the stable, secure and quality housing they desperately need.”
Another item that went to public hearing and adopted by city council last night was new Housing Conversion Regulations. The new guidelines will make it easier to convert houses to multiple units while incentivizing heritage designation, the city said.
“We know Victoria needs more housing options, both for renters and homeowners and these changes increase the number of eligible homes that qualify for home conversions,” said Helps. “Hundreds of units of housing have been created since housing conversions were introduced in the 1950s and expanding the program will encourage more rental housing, more affordable homeownership opportunities, and more two-and-three-bedroom units.”
The city says the construction timelines and rents are determined by the housing groups. The John Howard Society said it aims to start construction in summer 2021 with the units opening in 2022.