Casey Edge, executive director of the Victoria Residential Builders Assocation, suggests a disconnect between the stated priorities of Saanich and its actions when it comes to affordable housing. (file photo)

Head of Victoria home builders questions Saanich council in light of survey results

Casey Edge of VRBA says Saanich’s actions concerning housing do not match priorities of residents

The head of the Victoria Residential Builders Association (VRBA) suggests a disconnect between the stated priorities of Saanich and its actions when it comes to affordable housing in commenting on the results of a survey guiding Saanich’s financial and strategic decision.

VRBA executive director Casey Edge said 47 per cent of respondents in the Saanich Citizen Survey (2019) expressed dissatisfaction with policies to promote affordable housing.

“That’s a very high number considering housing affordability was a big part of the campaigns by members of council,” he said.

RELATED: Almost 25 per cent of Saanich residents identify housing as top issue

By way of background, 47 per cent of participants said they were either “not very satisfied” (32 per cent) or “not at all satisfied” (15 per cent) with Saanich’s current policies that encourage affordable housing. Forty-two per cent said they were “somewhat satisfied” with 11 per cent saying they “were satisfied.”

No policy area received a lower satisfaction rating in the statistically significant survey, which asked 1,022 randomly selected Saanich residents between Jan. 21 and Feb. 1, 2019, some three months after the current council assumed office.

Edge also pointed out that housing received the highest number of respondents (22 per cent) who identified it as the single most important issue facing Saanich.

Citing this background, Edge repeated his earlier criticism of Saanich’s decision to raise development cost charges (DCC) and introduce a building code designed to improve energy efficiency.

RELATED: Saanich set to raise development cost charges by 180 per cent

RELATED: Head of Greater Victoria builders critical of stricter climate policy

“So council boosting [development cost charges] by 180 [per cent] and adopting the Step Code adding thousands to the cost of housing was clearly the opposite of what residents expected,” he said.

Municipal officials say the increase in DCCs is overdue and necessary to help finance the cost of development, while the Step Code will help the municipality reach the goals of its climate action plan. It calls on Saanich to use 100 per cent renewable energy by 2050 and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 per cent in 2050, as part of a larger response.

Edge has also singled out other areas of the survey for criticism. “Some of the lowest satisfaction ratings include building inspections and permits and land use planning, which declined seven per cent and 10 per cent respectively since 2015,” he said. “That’s not surprising considering both are closely tied to affordability. If developers and builders, the main clients of these services, were the primary respondents, the ratings would be even lower. Saanich has an industry reputation of some of the slowest and most costly development processes in the CRD.”

Coun. Judy Brownoff echoed this criticism at least in part during Monday’s council meeting, when she also identified those same areas among others for improvement.

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