The Capital Regional District (CRD) will explore using the Oak Bay Lodge as temporary housing for people who are homeless.
The facility currently operates as a senior centre but will soon sit empty when residents are moved to The Summit at Quadra Village, a seniors long-term care home replacing both the Lodge and Mt. Tolmie Hospital.
The move was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, and Island Health announced in March that The Summit could be used to alleviate hospitals if the virus filled them to capacity. That wasn’t necessary – but as the new building fills, an old one will sit vacant. In August, the CRD takes possession of the property.
On Wednesday, July 8 Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps brought a motion to the CRD to have staff work with BC Housing and Island Health and explore the possibility of using the Oak Bay Lodge as temporary housing for the region’s unhoused, or as a COVID-19 related hospital facility.
CRD Board Chair Colin Plant gives credit to Helps for suggesting the space.
“We know these are such unprecedented times that require us to be more open-minded than ever,” he says. “This building was no longer going to meet the future needs for older adults, but in a pandemic maybe we can get a bit more life out of that building, so let’s have that conversation.”
Plant emphasizes that Wednesday’s decision was in favour of an exploratory motion – nothing has been decided.
“We want to ensure that anything that might happen at that site is going to be effective and work within the neighbourhood.”
Oak Mayor Kevin Murdoch, also a director on the CRD board, said whatever the decision is – it will be temporary. A comprehensive development approach, including community consultation, will determine future, permanent use of the land, he said.
“It is important to note, an empty property doesn’t suit the community well,” he said. “But we have to consider public safety and appropriate use of property…housing is one potential, there may be nothing.”
In an email, Island Health says both Oak Bay Lodge and Mt. Tolmie Hospital have infrastructure challenges that would create difficulties for supporting acute care.
“We are working with our communities and community partners on how to best support our population through the anticipated second wave.”