This Cook Street Village apartment building was salvaged and moved off the property in May to make way for a larger new development. Victoria council is putting a hold on approving new demolition permits for older rental buildings, to try and get a grip on the shrinking affordable rental housing market in the city. Photo by GRT

City of Victoria imposes six-month moratorium on rental building demolitions

Move aims to slow down shrinking affordable rental housing market

It’s an issue Pamela Madoff has lost sleep over in recent months.

With the city’s vacancy rate hovering around 0.5 per cent, she and other city councillors have struggled to find ways to help ensure there are enough affordable rental units for those who want to live in Victoria. A new six-month moratorium on applications to demolish rental buildings with more than four units, aims to do that.

“We have to realize in taking what might be seen as strategic or dramatic action, we’re dealing with a perfect storm,” said Madoff, who brought forward the motion supported by councillors Ben Isitt and Jeremy Loveday at Thursday’s committee of the whole meeting.

“We have record low vacancies, high demand for development sites, and the availability of low interest loans,” she said. “In the last 15 months, the dollars per square foot that can be realized in a residential development have more than doubled.”

City staff were directed to conduct a market rental retention study while the moratorium is in place, to give council a better idea of potential solutions. The committee also asked staff to pull money out of the 2017 budget contingency fund to cover the cost of expediting the work, including possibly hiring an extra housing planner on a contract basis.

The motion is one of many brought forward in recent months to help deal with the city’s housing crisis and protect tenants from displacement. Most recently, council voted to regulate short-term vacation rentals, such as those rented through Airbnb, a move the city hopes will bring hundreds of units back into the residential rental market.