Victoria on track to meet housing targets, Saanich and Oak Bay running behind

Victoria on track to meet housing targets, Saanich and Oak Bay running behind
File photo of a worker on a construction site.

The six-month progress reports on municipalities with housing targets set have now come in, and show that Victoria is ahead of schedule to meet its goals while Saanich and Oak Bay are running behind schedule.

The province had set incremental targets that each municipality should aim to reach each year.

Victoria’s goal for the first year was building 659 new homes, with each year ramping up to meet the final target set of 4,902 new homes over five years. In the first six months, Victoria has completed 753 new homes, surpassing its goal for the first year.

Victoria Mayor Marianne Alto says it is good news the city has met this goal in its housing targets so quickly, and also has an additional 316 building permits approved and rezoned for 1,628 more homes.

“It’s an incredible accomplishment for Victoria to reach this target so quickly,” said Alto.

“Meeting the mark well before the deadline set by the province demonstrates that urgently needed housing can be fast-tracked when local governments lean in to the effort. Our city is pulling its weight in addressing the housing crisis while City staff continue to propose innovative, forward-thinking policies and new ideas.”

Oak Bay has been set the goal of building 664 new units over five years, and its goal for the first year was 56. In the first six months, the municipality built a total of 13 units, but demolished six, resulting in a total of seven net new units.

Right from the time the targets were set, Kevin Murdoch, Oak Bay’s mayor, was clear it would not meet them and wanted the province’s help from the get-go.

“We don’t have a lot of publicly owned land and we don’t have a lot of big projects that are in the queue right now,” said Murdoch in September 2023. “We’re just saying we know we’re going to have a strong challenge upfront, so come and help us now.”

Saanich, meanwhile, is only slightly behind the halfway mark of its goal of 440 new units in the first year, completing a net total of 195 units. It would have surpassed its halfway goal, however, the province requires that demolished units be included in the total. Saanich opened 230 new units, but demolished 35. It has been set a target of building 4,610 units in five years.

Dean Murdock, Saanich’s mayor, tells CHEK News that the district will meet the targets in the long run, and is looking to make its approval process faster.

Casey Edge with the Victoria Residential Builders Association says the province, is using the wrong measuring stick.

“Those numbers are not really indicative of anything,” said Edge. “What you want to pay attention to, is CMHC housing starts.”

Edge says by tieing targets to fully finished and occupied units, the province is handing out housing kudos for work that’s been in the pipeline months or years before the housing targets were established in September.

“Housing is politics in British Columbia, and this is politics,” said Edge.

Instead, Edge says we should be looking at foundations poured.

According to CMHC Housing Starts January to March of 2023 compared to the same months this year, it paints a different picture.

Oak Bay has construction starting on seven new units compared to 15 last year January to March. Saanich is ahead of the game with 93 new units compared to 32 last year that same time frame. The Greater Victoria region as a whole is down about 16 per cent, seeing 1,088 new units starting to be built last year January to March and only 916 this year comparatively.

The City of Victoria itself actually down 94 per cent, with only 13 new units getting started. The same timeframe last year it had 240.

It’s something Edge acknowledges, could quickly turn on one big project starting.

Municipality’s six month progress reports are presented to the province mid-May. Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon says he’ll be on the lookout for good faith if municipalities are making a concerted effort to reform their rules and cut red tape to get more housing approved.

“I was under no illusions that the housing crisis would be solved in six months,” said Kahlon.

The B.C. government says any municipalities with housing targets set that do not meet them may have an advisor appointed to review the progress and make recommendations.

“As a last resort, the B.C. government may issue a directive to require the municipality to enact or amend a bylaw or accept or reject a permit to help meet the target,” the housing target information page says.


The province also recently released its list of the next 20 municipalities that have housing targets set, with eight of those being on the Island.

Central Saanich, Colwood, Esquimalt, Nanaimo, North Cowichan, North Saanich, Sidney and View Royal are the Island communities identified on the list. The remaining 12 elsewhere in the province are Chilliwack, Kelowna, City of Langley, Maple Ridge, Mission, New Westminster, City of North Vancouver, Port Coquitlam, Prince George, Surrey, West Kelowna and White Rock.

READ PREVIOUS: 8 Island communities among next 20 with housing targets set by province

In 2023, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation reiterated its 2022 call that Canada would need an additional 3.5 million new housing units by 2030 in order to restore affordability. B.C. would need to build 570,000 units in order to reach a target affordability level of 44 per cent, meaning that many units would need to be built in order for housing to cost an average of 44 per cent of a person’s income.

Laura BroughamLaura Brougham
Kori SidawayKori Sidaway

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