A 90-unit affordable housing and market rental proposal on the corner of Prosser and East Saanich roads in Brentwood Bay has been delayed, but Kaye Melliship, executive director of the Greater Victoria Housing Society (GVHS), is still a strong supporter of the project.
While the issue was to have come up at a May 7 council meeting, the developer has asked for a pause while they divide the property into two fee simple lots so both partners could manage their own buildings.
Melliship said Stride Properties asked the Society if they wanted to partner, saying the lot was large enough to accommodate two buildings. They said yes, partly because GVHS is building another property on the north end of Brentwood Village. Melliship said “it would be great to have another building in Central Saanich” to cut down on overhead, because people who maintain these buildings would not have to travel as far.
“All those savings get passed on to the tenants,” said Melliship.
Melliship said nearby Legion Manor could also be considered affordable housing, with 78 one-bedroom apartments for low income seniors and an additional 68 one-bedroom assisted-living suites for seniors. However, Melliship said the demand far outstrips supply, with studies done specifically on the Saanich Peninsula and the broader capital region for rental housing and affordable housing.
“There’s not of ton of affordable housing on the Peninsula. There’s certainly a demand for more,” said Melliship.
The 40-unit GVHS building will house a mix of families, singles and seniors with low to moderate income earners. The mix of incomes, she said, would be beneficial in a community but also within a building, “so there’s a range of aspirations and different life outcomes, so it makes for a better social environment,” said Melliship. In addition, she said it was a “very expensive proposition nowadays” to build a building that is 100 per cent affordable to low-income residents.
“Back in the day it was only very low-income people that needed housing assistance, but now it’s a much broader range of people in our community,” said Melliship, including working people and seniors with reliable pensions.
Melliship said she has heard the neighbourhood concerns about parking, and said each unit would have one parking stall, in addition to 14 visitor stalls, for 104 in total (most of which would be underground). As it stands, the Land Use Bylaw would require 158 stalls.
Low-to-moderate income people have less ability to purchase a car, said Melliship, and renters typically have a lower rate of car ownership, so parking demands for those buildings are lower than higher-end buildings. The GVHS has 14 other properties, so Melliship said the Society has quite a lot of experience with parking demand in these settings. Their own study of similar developments found an average parking demand of 0.59 spaces per unit, whereas the Central Saanich Land Use Bylaw requires 1.75 spaces per unit. Melliship said they also want to accommodate the renters that do have cars, so by providing 1.15 spaces per unit, Melliship said they will provide enough parking to exceed their own needs.
Letters sent to Central Saanich council expressed concern about an increase in vehicle traffic. In information submitted to Central Saanich staff, the proponent estimated that a market-price apartment building of the same size would generate an additional 35-40 additional vehicle trips per hour, so an affordable development of the same size would likely generate fewer trips than that. The report found the increase in traffic was to have “minimal impacts on traffic capacity of travel times on East Saanich Rd.”
Letter writers have also expressed concern over the size of the buildings, but Melliship said the site has a unique advantage. The four and five-storey buildings are built on a slope, with the ground floors much lower than the surrounding homes, so the top of the tallest building is about three feet taller than the surrounding building.
“The peaks of the roofs of our buildings are almost the same as the neighbours,” said Melliship, who added, “theoretically people could people a large single-family house without lowering the property, and it would be higher than [the neighbouring] properties.”
The proposal is denser than a series of townhomes, but Melliship said it is a more efficient use of limited space.
“We’re building for the next 50 years. We need to be good stewards of the land and using it most effectively now,” said Melliship.