Like a lot of people in B.C., I migrated west and arrived in Victoria in 1977. I bought my first home in Oak Bay in 1979. I was reminded of this yesterday when I completed the Infill Housing Strategy survey online.
When I completed it I was disturbed at the direction in which this survey is pointed. That direction is one of more development, greater intensification, more traffic, more cement and less green space. Clearly, this is not inevitable but the way the survey is constructed suggests strongly that this is seen as the desirable way to go.
The survey begins with three principles: housing should be more diverse, changes in land use should be easier to make by homeowners, and the character of Oak Bay should be safeguarded. But there’s a problem here. If you want to retain Oak Bay’s unique character you cannot easily abide by principles one and two. The first principle suggests that, with respect to housing, Oak Bay should develop like a sort of model village with housing options for every income level and every age group. This may be a planner’s dream but it is a flawed starting point.
Oak Bay has a population of about 18,000 while the Greater Victoria region has a population of almost 400,000. It is at the regional level that housing and transportation strategy should be developed, with attention to everyone’s needs, regardless of age or income level.
There are places where new housing options may make sense, such as on some parts of Oak Bay Avenue, but to “infill” and further intensify housing in our residential neighborhoods would be an irreversible mistake for which future generations would not thank us.