Initiatives to increase housing in Sooke continue to be considered by Sooke council, but those attempts face a rough road when affordable housing becomes part of the equation.
With developers working to build new housing, the public feedback to council places barriers to affordable housing initiatives.
“It’s really a little frustrating,” said John Brohman, one of the developers who appeared at the Nov. 26 council meeting seeking permission to subdivide a lot to make way for smaller, more affordable homes in Sooke.
“I have a plan for what I want to do on the lot (at 1923 Maple Ave.) where I can build smaller homes on smaller lots,” said Brohman.
“These are homes that people maybe can afford to get into. Ninety-nine per cent of the houses built in Sooke are as big as they can go, but the price is what keeps young people, downsizing seniors, single couples, and others who can’t afford those big homes (from getting a home in Sooke).”
Brohman pointed to a development he’d completed on Tominny Road.
“Everyone told me it couldn’t be done, putting that many homes on the lot I had available, but I did. We have a one, two and three- bedroom home there with all the parking they need,” said Brohman.
“I can tell you I have a list of people who want to rent or buy that (one-bedroom) home. It’s surprising how many small houses I could sell.”
Despite Brohman’s past successes, his application was met with a parade of citizens opposing his plan, citing concerns about parking and accessibility for emergency vehicles. Councillors echoed some of those concerns as well, although agreeing to finally support Brohman’s application.
Mayor Maja Tait said that it’s not surprising that development in the community would receive some opposition, but went on to note that two of the people who appeared to oppose the application did not live in the community.
And while Tait stopped short of characterizing the opposition to development as a NIMBY (not in my backyard) response to development in Sooke, she said she hoped that the planned housing needs analysis will provide the data needed to help alleviate, or at least respond, to the concerns voiced by community residents.
“Right now, if you’re a senior downsizing and looking for a smaller home in Sooke, you can’t. You end up leaving the community and end up in Langford,” said Tait.
Another application was also heard, this time to allow a plan five homes on Woodlands Road.
The application was also opposed by a string of neighbours who appeared to speak opposing the plan.
Although the application narrowly passed with Tait and councillors Brenda Parkinson, Al Beddows and Megan McMath voting approval, council and the developer, John Saleski, bowed to public concerns by placing a caveat on the approval that would disallow any secondary rental suites on the property.
“The concern was that there would be too much density in the area,” said Tait, while acknowledging that the plan called for only five houses to be placed on five acres of land.