The City of Victoria passed a number of motions in hopes of protecting local businesses and residents suffering from the economic consequences of COVID-19.
As of March 19, council directed staff to prepare amendments to bylaws to waive financial penalties for failure to pay municipal utility fees and taxes during provincially-declared emergencies.
Staff will also develop an action plan to help the Victoria’s more vulnerable populations facing eviction. This includes looking at repurposing under-utilized facilities for emergency shelter and health care centres for the homeless, enacting emergency regulations to restrict evictions, and offering a temporary deferral of fees, taxes and other payments to the City for those suffering from hardship.
Council also authorized its real estate staff to examine options to relieve businesses of immediate rent requirements in city-owned properties, and asked other landlords to work with tenants to explore options. Staff will also examine if emergency childcare can be put in place for essential service workers.
The City will also write the the provincial and federal governments asking for assistance in finding income support for those on leave due to COVID-19 with “immediate and retroactive effect.” It’s also asked for a temporary moratorium on evictions, foreclosures and payment of debt and utility fees, support of Indigenous communities that would be vulnerable to COVID-19 due to substandard housing, water or social service systems, and temporary deferral of payroll reduction remittances.
Council also requested that the provincial government grant municipal governments the ability to postpone payment of property taxes, as well as sent a request to the University of Victoria to reconsider displacement of students currently living in student housing.
“Some of the measures outlined here have already been implemented by the federal government. I am grateful to both the federal and provincial governments for their financial assistance to residents and businesses and the guidance and advice of both the federal and provincial medical health officers,” said Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps.
“In the coming weeks, council will continue to take actions within our jurisdiction to help alleviate the suffering of our residents and businesses in these uncertain times. I also know that Victorians are working hard and displaying extraordinary generosity to help each other out and to get through these difficult times together.”
In the mean time, public hearings have been suspended, as has the in-person question period for public council meetings. Council will continue to hold meetings, which will be livestreamed at victoria.ca .