This walk-up, three-storey apartment building off Oak Bay Avenue in Victoria is the type of mid-density housing that is not actively being built in Oak Bay. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)

This walk-up, three-storey apartment building off Oak Bay Avenue in Victoria is the type of mid-density housing that is not actively being built in Oak Bay. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)

Where will the missing middle go in Oak Bay?

People are chomping to get at a housing plan, says Coun. Andrew Appleton

This is the first instalment of a two-part series on Oak Bay’s role in building the missing middle in Greater Victoria. See next week’s edition for more.

Legal or illegal, secondary suites in Oak Bay are not going to be enough to bring relief to the housing crisis in Greater Victoria.

Density, in the form of the missing middle, is growing in Greater Victoria, but not in Oak Bay despite a recognition that it’s important. This includes duplexes, multiplexes, low-rise (two-storey) and mid-rise (three- to four-storey) walk-ups, apartments, condos and above all, townhouses.

As the housing crunch continues to tighten across southern B.C., the pressure is mounting to densify.

Oak Bay’s housing framework timeline pushes towards a zoning bylaw review in 2023.
(Oakbay.ca)

“Oak Bay has definitely concentrated on single-family homes over the past 50 years, however, what our housing needs report shows us and what we inherently know is that we must diversify the housing types to ensure our community is viable for the future,” said Coun. Hazel Braithwaite.

Oak Bay has a plan, the current housing framework. It starts with the much-anticipated secondary suites study due very soon, which will be a series of options for council to consider.

Then, over the next three years, staff will bring forward reports on infill housing, village area plans and in 2023, a zoning bylaw review.

“Oak Bay is ready for the housing strategy and village plan. People are chomping to get at it and are asking about it, they want to see it this term,” said Coun. Andrew Appleton.

It will all rely on whether council has the will to not only permit diverse housing options but incentivize them, Appleton confirmed.

READ ALSO: Oak Bay United Church votes to pause any development

It hits home for Braithwaite, whose family is facing a similar scenario to many other families in Oak Bay. The area has become too expensive and her daughter – a 31-year-old highly-educated and highly motivated professional who is unable to afford a house in Oak Bay without a similarly successful partner or without parental support, Braithwaite said.

“However, if she had the opportunity of purchasing a townhouse, duplex or triplex it would be so much more attainable,” Braithwaite said.

So why aren’t there more townhouses, duplexes, triplexes and low- or mid-rise buildings in Oak Bay?

“The problem is occurring all over the world, particularly in North America, where for the last half-century there was an assumption that all normal people want to move to the suburbs for automobile-dependent lifestyles,” says Todd Litman, a Fernwood-based urban transit researcher and consultant who is behind Cities for Everyone, which advocates for affordable transportation and housing options.

As a result, zoning codes, policy and attitudes were based on this assumption, and uncoupling them has proved difficult. Look at Oak Bay United Church’s attempt to add market and rent-capped townhomes. Opposition was so fierce, the application never made it in front of council and the church permanently pulled the project last year with a plan to take a break and start over again.

However, the answer in Oak Bay could be a concept known as filtering. With filtering, it doesn’t matter if the new houses are all capped at an affordable rate for people with lower incomes. The point is to introduce enough homes so that the demand lessens.

READ ALSO: Province says 800 homes will help with tight Victoria student housing scene

“We know that if you build medium-priced housing people will move into it. Most of the people moving into those are in lower-priced apartments moving up,” Litman said. “It’s unusual for someone paying $3,000 a month to move into a $2,000 per month new unit. The trend goes from old to new and in most cases frees up a cheaper apartment.”

But the only rental building to come online in the last decade is The Clive, a 16-unit building that doubled the density of what was previously on the same envelope. The Clive was highly contentious but by the end of the process, developer Nicole Roberts said at the time, there were just as many people speaking out in support for the building as there were against it.

“People against it are vocal early on. People who are for it show up at the end, and you have to get to the end,” she said on a podcast with Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps.

When the Oak Bay News reached out to one developer he laughed when asked why he doesn’t build in Oak Bay. Another said it’s a “waste of time,” and a non-starter.

But the demand is there. Aryze has been fielding calls and emails from people interested in the potential townhouse development at 902 Foul Bay Rd. Large and Co. has a waitlist dating back more than three years for The Quest condo proposal for Oak Bay Avenue.

“It’s a reality across the region, the concern about density, the maintenance of ‘neighbourhood character,’ and Oak Bay has historically been a large single-family residential component, and I hear that,” said Appleton, who is confident there is an appetite for more housing.”

Housing crisisoak bay

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A portion of West Coast Road in Sooke was closed for several hours as emergency services responded to a “serious incident” on Tuesday. Photo courtesy of Google Maps.
West Coast Road reopens after ‘serious incident’ propted Tuesday afternoon closure

The road was closed between Grant Road West and Otter Point Road as emergency services were on scene

Grandmothers to Grandmothers is a campaign that connects Canadian grandmothers with grandmothers in Africa who are caring for children orphaned by AIDS. Here, they are in Kakuto, Uganda in 2018. (Kibuuka Mukisa Oscar photo)
Greater Victoria and African grandmothers celebrate solidarity with virtual concert

Grandmothers to Grandmothers supports women in Africa caring for children orphaned by AIDS

Naloxone is used to treat opioid overdoses. (Black Press Media files)
Island Health issues overdose advisory for Greater Victoria

The advisory directs bystanders to an overdose to call 911 and administer naloxone

Supporter Gordy Dodd cheers on HeroWork Victoria executive director Trevor Botkin, who will be in a lift for 36 hours beside Dodd’s Furniture and Mattress on April 16 and 17 to raise funds for the organization’s next project, a makeover of the Salvation Army’s Addiction and Rehabilitation Centre on Johnson Street. (Courtesy HeroWork Victoria)
HeroWork Victoria tackles makeover of Salvation Army rehab centre

Executive director to spend 36 hours living in a lift as fundraiser

West Shore RCMP is seeking information about a collision involving a car and a bicycle on Six Mile Road, near the Island Highway, at 11:30 a.m. on April 7. (Black Press Media file photo)
West Shore RCMP seeks information about collision between bike, car

Collision occured on Six Mile Road on April 7 and a bystander got the blue car’s plate number

Restaurant patrons enjoy the weather on a patio in Vancouver, B.C., Monday, April 5, 2021. The province has restricted indoor dining at all restaurants in B.C. due to a spike in COVID-19 numbers. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C.’s COVID-19 indoor dining, drinking ban extending into May

Restaurant association says patio rules to be clarified

Two men were seen removing red dresses alongside the Island Highway in Oyster Bay. (Submitted photo)
Two men filmed removing red dresses from trees on highway near Ladysmith

Activists hung the dresses to raise awareness for Vancouver Island’s Murdered/Missing Women & Girls

B.C. Premier John Horgan speaks at the B.C. legislature. (B.C. government)
Tougher COVID-19 restrictions in B.C., including travel, still ‘on the table’: Horgan

John Horgan says travel restrictions will be discussed Wednesday by the provincial cabinet

RCMP on scene yesterday at the altercation at the trailer park. (Submitted photo)
Violent altercation at Port Hardy trailer park sends one to hospital

Police say man confronted another over airsoft shooting, then was attacked with a weapon

John Albert Buchanan was found guilty of manslaughter in the 2017 death of Richard Sitar. Pictured here, Buchanan walking to the court in Nanaimo last year. (Karl Yu/News Bulletin)
Six years including time served for Nanaimo man in bludgeoning death

John Albert Buchanan sentenced in B.C. Supreme Court in Nanaimo for death of Richard Sitar

Flow Academy is not accepting membership applications from anybody who has received a dose of the vaccine, according to a password-protected membership application form. (Submitted image)
B.C. martial arts gym refusing patrons who have been vaccinated, wear masks

Interior Health has already issued a ticket to Flow Academy for non-compliance with public health orders

Guinevere, lovingly referred to by Jackee Sullivan and her family as Gwenny, is in need of a gynecological surgery. The family is raising money to help offset the cost of the procedure. (Jackee Sullivan/Special to Langley Advance Times)
Langley lizard’s owners raise funds for gynecological surgery

The young reptile is scheduled for operation on Tuesday

Facebook screenshot of the sea lion on Holberg Road. (Greg Clarke Facebook video)
VIDEO: Sea lion randomly spotted on remote B.C. logging road

Greg Clarke was driving home on the Holberg Road April 12, when he saw a large sea lion.

Defence counsel for the accused entered two not guilty pleas by phone to Grand Forks Provincial Court Tuesday, Jan. 12. File photo
B.C. seafood company owner fined $25K for eating receipt, obstructing DFO inspection

Richmond company Tenshi Seafood is facing $75,000 in fines as decided March 4 by a provincial court judge

Most Read