Victoria council passes motion to accelerate construction of affordable housing

Victoria council passes motion to accelerate construction of affordable housing
Nicholas Pescod/CHEK News

Some affordable housing projects in the City of Victoria will be able to skip the rezonings or public hearing process after a motion was passed unanimously at a council meeting.

The council unanimously voted in favour of a motion that would allow non-profit, government, or co-op housing organizations to skip the rezoning or public hearing process as long as the design is consistent with the city’s Ofiicial Community Plan.

This makes Victoria the first municipality in B.C. to approve an accelerated process for affordable housing city-wide.

“The change we made tonight will get more affordable homes built more quickly for families, workers and people who need it the most,” said Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps in a news release. “Council is taking a bold step to remove the uncertainly around affordable housing decisions and cut red tape. It’s the first of hopefully many tectonic shifts in how Victoria is improving the housing development process.”

If a development project meets all necessary criteria, it will now be able to build up to the maximum density in the city’s OCP.

According to the OCP’s Land Management and Development section, maximum density in the city varies by urban place designations.

The maximum building height ranges from no greater than one storey along the rail corridor up to approximately 24 storeys in the core business zone.

“Cities taking steps to speed up approvals for new public and affordable housing makes it easier, cheaper and faster for the province and the federal government to respond to the housing crisis by building the homes that are desperately needed,” said David Eby, Attorney General and Minister responsible for Housing in a news release.

“Because of the scope of our housing investments, having a partner at the municipal level who facilitates quick approvals helps get doors open sooner for people living in the streets and parks, and also for people who simply need a more affordable place closer to work.”

Approvals for projects that qualify with this criteria are now delegated to staff to approve, which the city estimates will reduce project timelines by about nine months for a typical project.

“There are three key factors that put affordable housing projects at risk once they enter the municipal approvals process: time, cost and uncertainty of approval,” said Jill Atkey CEO, BC Non-Profit Housing Association in a news release. “Victoria City Council removed all three of those barriers and now shines as an example to other municipalities serious about affordable housing in their communities.”

As part of the City’s Housing Strategy, a goal has been set to build 2,100 affordable units by 2025, so far the city has built 900.

Laura BroughamLaura Brougham

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