Saanich has launched a “Housing Needs Report” soliciting the views of mostly non-profit, charitable, and government stakeholders. (pg 51)
However, the market housing organizations that did participate in a focus group, including the Victoria Residential Builders Association, made the following points including high costs and slow permit processes.
In the recent Housing Needs Report for Central Saanich, the BC Step Code is identified as a barrier to affordability, which Saanich council also adopted and fast-tracked to Step 3 adding $30,800 to the cost of a home.
Here’s what is contained in the Saanich report:
Saanich “Housing Needs Report” – Pg 55:
“5.2.1 Barriers and Challenges in Developing and Operating Housing
Housing Supply is Not Keeping Up
Stakeholders noted that housing starts in Saanich are declining and that high development costs and policy changes do not encourage developers to build in the community (e.g. large increases in development cost charges).
Lengthy Development Approvals Process
Stakeholders felt that the average timeline to obtain approval for a development application is significantly longer in Saanich than in other CRD communities, which has discouraged some builders from developing in Saanich. Participants noted there is an opportunity for to fast-track affordable housing applications to encourage developers to build new housing similar to other CRD communities.
Lack of Rental Incentives
Stakeholders felt that there is a lack of incentives (e.g. both policy and financial incentives) to direct developers to build specific housing types and forms. Although rental housing is needed in Saanich and rental vacancy rates are low, there are currently no municipal incentives to encourage the development of rental housing.
Family Housing Regulations
Larger units for families are needed. One stakeholder that the regulation for family-sized housing (e.g. 2 and 3 bedroom units) in development projects should be aimed away from corridors and targeted towards lower-density areas.
5.2.2 Opportunity Areas Large Land Base for New Housing Development
Saanich has one of the largest land bases across all the CRD communities. Stakeholders felt that there were opportunities to build new housing across the housing continuum to address pent-up demand. In addition, locating housing close to outdoor public amenities and spaces in Saanich was viewed by participants as a community benefit that supported health and wellbeing, especially during times of crises (e.g. COVID-19 pandemic). It was also noted that the large land base may be an opportunity to explore affordable housing and community services in Saanich.
Encourage Higher Density Housing
As developing housing in Saanich is costly, allowing higher density housing would encourage more affordable housing to be built. A participant highlighted the need for smaller land plots and more infill development. Mixed-use six-storey affordable housing projects with amenities are possible because there are strong capital, developer, and labour markets in the core area communities including Saanich.”
A useful housing report called “Gimme Shelter: How High Municipal Housing Charges and Taxes Decrease Housing Supply” by the CD Howe Institute was recently released supporting VRBA’s concerns and identifies municipalities, such as Saanich, as the source of high housing prices, lack of supply and therefore affordability.