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LETTER: Saanich projects don’t address affordability

When a major issue in housing today is affordability, Saanich council continues to approve many large development projects, approximately half of which are market-rate condos or townhouses for purchase: so not “affordable.”

In this regard the Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM) March 23 report, Housing Completions & Population Growth 2016-2021, is well worth a read.

“Effectively tackling affordability requires more than a single focus on supply. It also requires incentivizing the right supply such as affordable housing and co-ops, and addressing the still significant influence of speculative demand.”

“A full 60% of apartment building transactions (in Metro Vancouver and Greater Victoria) were made by major institutional investors and Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs)”, and “…. high levels of investor activity can contribute to higher prices …”

“Some communities in B.C. are seeing remarkable growth in flipping of pre-sale condos (assignments) …”

The report also “… submits that housing supply … has kept pace with population growth in B.C. over the past five years.” UBCM data to 2021 shows this includes Greater Victoria.

The 2021 census for Saanich shows population growth of only 3.1 per cent since 2016. Saanich’s own Housing Strategy endorsed by council in August 2021, projects growth of 4.2 per cent from 2020-2025. Even this requires only 600 units per year. We see no statistical evidence to dispute this projection. So where is there any justification for the already approved total of 2,300 units in Saanich since March 2020, when incidentally only 20 per cent of these are either government-assisted or offered at below-market rates? Another 470 units are before council this August alone.

Applications also seek multiple requests including variances to the OCP/LAP, height, parking, setbacks, and tree removals. Many valid and articulate community members’ and associations’ concerns are ignored, and there are also inconsistent responses to staff recommendations. Extraordinary 10 and 11-storey projects in semi-rural Saanich are incomprehensible.

Time to reflect.

Fiona Millard

Saanich

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