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Housing co-op expansion gets support from Sidney council

All-candidates forum touts housing co-ops and addresses over-housing
Sidney council will write a letter of support of Friendship Cooperative Housing, which is looking at increasing the number of affordable housing units on its property and the addition of a three-storey apartment. (Black Press Media file photo)

Plans for additional affordable housing have the support of Sidney council.

Council voted unanimously to send a letter of support on behalf of Friendship Cooperative Housing, which operates near the Sidney-North Saanich branch of Vancouver Island Regional Library. The co-op offers 15 two-level townhouses at below median market rates and is currently exploring possibilities for increasing the number of affordable housing units on its existing property. The co-op is considering the addition of an additional three-storey apartment-style building with 10 bachelor suites and 20 one-bedroom units.

The co-op is working with Red House Solutions, a local consulting firm focused on the preservation and creation of affordable housing throughout British Columbia, in soliciting support for the project. According to a sample letter of support submitted to the municipality, the project would allow for current senior members to age in place by downsizing to smaller homes. This would reduce the number of over-housed members, as well as allow younger singles in the community to attain affordable housing, it reads.

Both issues — over-housing, which is older individuals living in houses too large for them, and co-ops — came up during Sunday’s all-candidates forum hosted by the Sidney Community Association.

Coun. Sara Duncan specifically referenced that proposal in generally highlighting the future role of co-operatives, while also discussing the problem of over-housing.

RELATED: New report finds many Sidney residents struggle with housing affordability

“We don’t have an under-supply of family housing — 44 per cent of our housing is actually family housing, but only 20 per cent of the people who live here are families,” she said. “The problem is we have a lot of people, who can’t move out, who can’t downsize, even if they might want to for mobility reasons, because then they would have to get a mortgage.”

Coun. Terri O’Keeffe also highlighted the problem of housing being under-utilized. “There are lots of middle-aged people like me who have three or four-bedroom houses, the kids have moved, but they want to stay in the neighbourhood.” The municipality should create incentives for the construction of garden suites or basement suites that would allow such individuals to downsize while freeing up housing space for others, she said.

Speaking on Monday, Coun. Barbara Fallot picked up on the issue of co-ops, in praising the proposal from Friendship Cooperative Housing, having said earlier that co-op housing is not necessarily low-cost housing. “There is a whole variety of co-op housing,” she said. “But this particular one is (low-cost housing).”

According to CHMC, Sidney’s vacancy rate for October 2021 was 0.5 per cent with an average rent of $1,430. A 2019 report assessing the state of housing in Sidney also found that many, if not most, households in Sidney suffer from an affordability gap. The report also notes that the “biggest unmet needs in Sidney are affordable options for individuals living on their own and families” in finding that the community needs at least 597 new rental units with 400 units below rental market levels.

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Wolf Depner

About the Author: Wolf Depner

I joined the national team with Black Press Media in 2023 from the Peninsula News Review, where I had reported on Vancouver Island's Saanich Peninsula since 2019.
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