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Victoria mayoral candidates debate missing middle proposal

A September vote passed the decision on the housing initiative to the new council
The yellow repesents areas in Victoria only zoned for single-family homes. The missing middle initiative would allow for – along with single-family homes – up to six-unit houseplexes, corner townhouses and infill housing on heritage-worthy lots to be built on those properties as well. (Courtesy of City of Victoria)

Victoria’s missing middle initiative – which will be decided on by the next council – continues to be a hot topic leading up to the election with a number of the mayoral candidates opposing the current form.

The missing middle initiative looks to boost the supply of family-suiting, ground-oriented homes that fall in between single-family dwellings and larger apartments. In an Oct. 5 debate hosted by CFAX, five of the eight mayoral candidates were asked how they would vote on the proposal, which has been one of the most-discussed issues at city hall this year.

Current Coun. Stephen Andrew expressed his displeasure with the current plan but said he understands the need for homes as he was homeless at the age of 22.

“It’s divisive policy, it’s immature policy and it was tried to be rushed through,” he said, adding he’d bring it back to the council table to be revised as there are many aspects he likes. “We need to ensure that the policy brings our community together.”

Fellow Coun. Marianne Alto said she supported the initiative after the two-and-a-half years of public consultation that went into it. She voted against passing the issue to the next council, while Andrew was in favour of pushing back the timeline.

“Because we chose not to make a decision, we actually gave away our local authority to manage land use even when we had been advised repeatedly by the provincial government that if we didn’t actually engage something like missing middle, they would impose it on us.”

Brendan Marshall said he supports something similar to the initiative but the current plans don’t go far enough in terms of building form and character that reflects each neighbourhood.

“I do believe we need some sort of blanket zoning solution, that when developers go into a project they know what to expect.”

Marshall and Alto cited how the B.C. government has hinted at downloading zoning changes on cities that don’t meet the province’s standard around boosting housing. Alto specifically mentioned NDP leadership candidate David Eby, who has the clearest path to being the next premier given his caucus support.

Eby’s platform commits to allowing homebuilders in major urban centres to replace a single-family home with a dwelling with up to three units, if it sticks to existing height and setback requirements. That would reduce red tape for triplexes smaller than the up to six-unit houseplexes in Victoria’s missing middle initiative. But it’s unclear if Eby’s plan would look to reduce the mass of the top floor, which Victoria’s proposal aims to do.

Eby also calls for cities that don’t hit minimum housing targets to be “supported through provincial intervention to meet growth demands.”

Rafael Fuentes would vote against the initiative as he said it “is about home acquisition, it’s not about affordability.”

“If you take the missing middle and sell my property and put up a triplex, fourplex, it’s not going to be affordable for the average person,” he said.

Lyall Atkinson said he may have a conflict of interest relating to the proposal because he owns two properties that he could redevelop.

“What we need to do is to get the developers to make a portion of their building be a third of a person’s income to be allowed to rent or own one of these properties.”

Atkinson argued approving the 1,600-unit Harris Green Village redevelopment would “better serve” communities than the missing middle plans.

Candidates Rod Graham, David Johnston and Michelle Wilboltt didn’t participate in the debate but responded to Black Press Media with their positions on the issue.

Johnston said there is no housing crisis, the initiative is a “con on both sides” and he would limit buildings to four storeys.

“Under my leadership, we will no longer be drowning in the delusional presumption that becoming a little soulless version of Dubai is good and inevitable.”

Wilboltt replied with: only build for locals, pod villages, “three storeys maximum unless previous” and “neighbours in specific groups, majority’s decision.”

Graham didn’t say how he’d vote but said he’s running because people experiencing homelessness are being shot with pellet guns, laughed at, falsely accused and having their property taken from them.

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Jake Romphf

About the Author: Jake Romphf

In early 2021, I made the move from the Great Lakes to Greater Victoria with the aim of experiencing more of the country I report on.
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