The District of Saanich could look into replicating the City of Victoria’s recently adopted process for expediting select affordable housing projects.
Saanich Coun. Susan Brice wants her community to examine Victoria’s direction to see if the district should follow suit by making the same amendments to its application process.
Victoria’s first-of-its-kind policy allows affordable housing applications by non-profit, co-operative or government agencies to be approved by city staff, instead of council, and lets those projects secure the maximum allowable density for a development’s proposed site.
Saanich council is scheduled to discuss Brice’s motion at its Monday night (April 25) council meeting. The motion calls for staff to look into using the same eligibility requirements as Victoria.
Those include that projects must align with the official community plan and design guidelines, and must have a long-term lease to a public housing provider to fit the affordable definition.
“After watching this process unfold in Victoria, there are obvious advantages for Saanich to pursue a policy with the same intent,” Brice said in a council memo. “Much work has been done on this file and there are advantages to Saanich and the not-for-profit sector for our staff to engage with Victoria staff with the goal of bringing back the necessary amendments.”
Brice highlighted several of Victoria’s reasons for advancing the measure. The process expects to cut nine months off the application timeline, according to Victoria staff. Those time savings are seen as crucial given soaring construction costs and inflation.
Groups eligible for the expedited process also lack the financial resources of typical housing developers, meaning quickly rising costs during the application timeline can put the feasibility of affordable projects at risk.
When Victoria was considering the policy, several housing providers said they would be able to offer lower rents due to the speedier timeline. The city also expects the new process to release more housing funding from senior governments.
Brice’s push for Saanich to explore the housing policy was seconded in advance by Coun. Judy Brownoff.
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