It is no surprise that another 470 units of housing were approved by Saanich council on Aug. 23. However, when we hear that council relies on Saanich’s own Housing Needs Report (HNR) of 2020 to guide decisions, it makes one wonder to which parts of the HNR they are referring:
The 2021 census indicates a 3.1 per cent population growth in Saanich between 2016-2021. Based on a projected population growth in Saanich (2020-2025 ) of 4.2 per cent, the HNR indicates 600 units would be needed per annum, yet 2,764 units have been approved since March 2020, with another 2,880 currently in active planning applications. In addition, a Union of B.C. Municipalities report (2022) submits that housing supply in B.C. has kept pace with population growth even in Greater Victoria.
So where is the justification for all these housing units?
Further, if indeed the HNR is apparently being followed, why are 69 per cent one-bedroom (or smaller) approved when the HNR recommends only 42 per cent? Worse still, approving 28 per cent two-bedroom (recommended 39%) and only three per cent three-bedrooms (19 per cent are recommended). Presumably, developers take the financial benefit of marketing smaller units, and unfortunately the numbers do not seem to be questioned.
When affordability is a key issue, why is it that only about 20 per cent of units approved recently offer some degree of ‘affordability’ including government-sponsored projects? The remainder are sold or rented at market rates, with token ‘amenities’ often ironically, with a contribution to the Housing Affordability fund, weighed against some profitable two floors or more of bonus density. Does any of this agree with the recommendations of the Official Community Plan, Local Area Plans, the 2017 Shelbourne Valley Plan or neighbours’ concerns? The recent approval of 10- and 11-storey projects in an outlying area of Saanich is particularly unbelievable.
Time for change.