Blanket rezoning and expediting processing timelines are two ideas Victoria staff have put on the table to address the shortfall of an estimated 4,431 child-care spaces in the city.
Finding child care on the South Island is a challenge, so the previous council directed staff to come forward with ideas on how to reduce barriers for hopeful child-care operators in Victoria to open new businesses.
“Child care was brutal for me and my kids. I thought that was going to be as bad as it gets but then I got to after-school care and before-school care, which was actually even worse than child care,” said Coun. Matt Dell.
“I remember I showed up at four o’clock to sign up for after-school care, and then found out people have been waiting since like six in the morning or eight in the morning and I was like 100th on the waitlist and that was all we had. We didn’t have care, we were totally hooped.”
While Victoria staff noted they identified a gap of 4,431 child-care spaces in the city, they said it may be higher because the estimate was based on an assumption that every existing child-care operator in the city is operating at full capacity, which they say is unlikely as child-care operators have been struggling with staffing recently. Staff also noted the count only takes into consideration children living in Victoria, not children living in other municipalities who may attend child care in the city due to where their parents work.
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The 2021 census shows there are 8,450 children aged zero to 14 in the City of Victoria.
Staff put forward four recommendations to streamline the process to create child-care spaces in the city.
The first is to create a common definition for child-care facilities that is consistent with Island Health.
“Care is defined as supervision that is provided to a child through a prescribed program,” Island Health says on its website. It has nine separate categories of care for children, ranging from group child care under 36 months, preschool for 30 months to school age, and multi-age child care.
The second is to rezone the city to allow child-care facilities in all zones, with exceptions for some zones like industrial where child care would be inappropriate.
“[Currently,] if the zoning does not permit child care use on a site, then a rezoning application is needed,” said Julie Edney, a housing planner with the City of Victoria said in a presentation to council. “In such cases, an applicant would have to present the proposal to the neighbourhood [Community Association Land Use Committees] for community feedback and the application would need to be considered by council following a public hearing.”
The third is to allow child-care spaces in traditional residential areas like single or two-family dwellings.
“Anecdotally, staff occasionally receive enquiries from potential operators who are interested in converting a single-family dwelling to a child-care facility, however, they cannot meet the requirements of Schedule G and do not wish to pursue a rezoning application due to costs, timelines, and uncertainty,” the motion presented to COTW says.
“As such, it is proposed that the Zoning Regulation Bylaw be amended to allow child-care facilities in an existing single-family dwelling or two-family dwelling, subject to the regulations set out in the applicable site zoning, rather than Schedule G.”
The final recommendation is to delegate development permits to staff in order to expedite the process timelines.
Coun. Marg Gardiner said she supports the creation of child-care spaces, but would like staff to consider a way to give priority to children who live nearby for any new spaces.
“Even when we’re looking at some developments, larger ones that have daycare within them, there is no guarantee or even preference going to be given to the people who actually live in the building, and I think this is a problem that is beyond the city but the city should be aware of it and try to help fix this,” Gardiner said.
“Like my one granddaughter can look down to see two playgrounds she’s not allowed to play in because she’s not in those daycares, but she can see them out her window.”
The committee of the whole unanimously approved this report, except for Coun. Susan Kim who recused herself due to a conflict of interest, and now staff will move forward with consultation with Island Health, child-care providers, the Urban Development Institute and Community Association Land Use Committees.
There will also be engagement opportunities posted on the City’s website, Engage Victoria and elsewhere.
After consultation is complete, staff will return with bylaw amendments to council and the feedback received in consultation.