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Municipal Elections Present Housing Opportunity

The municipal elections created significant changes in some communities and others stayed the course.

Langford voters maintained their reputation for efficiency and housing affordability by returning Stew Young and his council.

They bring both common sense and innovation to their municipality which is a big part of the reason Langford posts almost 50% of the housing starts this year in the CRD.

Their challenges will mostly come from the provincial level, where the Horgan govt is undermining Langford’s successful investment and jobs strategy with ill-conceived policies like the Speculation and Vacancy Tax.

On the other hand, changes in Saanich have been significant where new Mayor Fred Haynes and many new councilors will try to create a cooperative and effective municipality, previously saddled with a reputation for inefficiency and high costs.

Haynes is one of the more knowledgeable elected officials regarding housing and the newly elected, young councilors also appear to have an objective, balanced perspective. All seem to agree Saanich can do much better in terms of administrative efficiency and effectiveness.

In Colwood, Mayor Rob Martin campaigned on boosting economic development and jobs. He points out that 93% of the municipality’s tax base is residential, so supporting commercial development will be a priority.

Victoria returned Mayor Lisa Helps and a number of incumbents, but also added new young councilors representing Together Victoria, advocating a more affordable, inclusive municipality.

The affordability challenge first requires a solid understanding of how the housing market works. If all newly elected officials do their research and engage developers and builders, more housing affordability can be achieved.

It is clear voters want increased cooperation, evidenced by the support for the Victoria/Saanich amalgamation study, and preference for less development conflict contributing to the high cost of housing.

Everyone starts this week with a blank slate and it is an opportunity to work together to improve housing in our communities.

This column is available Wednesdays in the Times Colonist newspaper.

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