Efforts to build supportive housing in Saanich have suffered a blow.
The provincial government said thank you, but no thank you to Saanich’s offer for land in exchange for supportive housing near Municipal Hall.
The land that was offered by the District of Saanich was assessed and was deemed not suitable for development or feasible for modular housing, according to the ministry. BC Housing staff have conveyed this information to the District and are hopeful they will continue to work with staff to find suitable, alternative land on which housing can be built to meet the needs of the community.
Megan Catalona acknowledged the provincial decision Wednesday. “We received information from BC Housing about the land Saanich offered for modular supportive housing and continue to work with the provincial government to find land on which modular supportive housing can be built,” she said.
It is not clear which specific reasons prompted the province to reject the land that Saanich had offered.
This news has come just 10 days before the general municipal election on Oct. 20.
The state of local housing has been one of, if not the topic during the current municipal campaign and the decision to decline Saanich’s offer could shape the final vote.
When Saanich first announced in September that it was offering land to the province for supportive housing, Mayor Richard Atwell said publicly that it was he, who had brought the motion to council on June 21, calling it a “direct example” of his leadership.
“We are hopeful that by providing this land, we’re moving in the right direction to secure housing and satisfy some of the need for housing in this region,” Atwell said in September.
While public reactions to Saanich’s offer have generally positive, several non-incumbent candidates have criticized Saanich for waiting too long in offering the land in exchange for supportive housing.
Teale Phelps Bondaroff, for example, has accused the current council of dithering and failing residents of the tent city that had popped up in Regina Park for several months. It was its presence that had initially inspired Saanich to offer the land.
Now, it appears that critics will have the chance to criticize Saanich for offering the wrong type of land.
Atwell said Wednesday afternoon did not think that the piece of land that Saanich offered was the most suitable.
“I still think that the former Emily Carr library is what council should put forth in good faith if we truly want to move forward with modular housing,” he said.