Over the next twenty years, the City of Victoria is expected to see an increase of more than 20,000 residents — an explosive jump emerging as a key election issue for many locals.
“Affordable housing is definitely my major concern going into this election,” one local told CHEK News Wednesday.
“I think homelessness and crime (are my major concerns). I think I’m almost afraid to go down around Pandora and Vancouver these days,” said another.
Eight mayoral candidates are in the running to replace outgoing Mayor Lisa Helps. The two frontrunners, Marianne Alto and Stephen Andrew, say the top issues are clear.
“Housing number one, for sure. We have to deal with it and we have to deal with it broadly and quickly,” said Alto.
“I’ve been hearing it’s public safety or housing. And when it’s housing, it’s a lack of housing,” added Andrew.
One of the biggest hurdles for the outgoing council was the Missing Middle Housing Initiative, which would cut red tape for rezoning single-family homes to add denser housing options like houseplexes and corner townhouses.
Alto says that would be her first priority as mayor.
“Obviously housing is critical,” she said. “We have to deal with it first in some fashion, and there’s a variety of different complex ways to do it. I think we need to reexamine some type of a local missing middle initiative, some type of a policy.”
Andrew says his priority would be to increase the number of housing units immediately, though Missing Middle would require more time before a new council.
“I think this council tried to rush it through and it wasn’t a fully matured policy,” he said. “And I think if we take more time to bring people along, it would pass.”
Crime is an issue for many, including business owners who say they’re seeing 30 per cent fewer customers because people are afraid to venture into the downtown.
But many, including one woman in the Cook Street Village, say their top issue is one that’s personal.
“I know so many people who are absolutely terrified of losing their homes, so I know there are a lot of people who would really like to buy homes,” the woman said. “And I sympathize with them as well.”
Voters cast their ballots this Saturday, Oct. 15.