The Victoria Council simplifies the approval process for affordable housing – BC News


The city of Victoria became the first local government in British Columbia to approve an accelerated process for qualifying affordable housing projects after councilors unanimously passed the new legislation after a public hearing.

Under the law, projects of non-profit organizations, government or cooperative housing organizations will no longer require redevelopment or public hearings when in line with the city’s official community plan and related design guidelines.

“This is a historic moment for the city,” Victoria Mayor Lisa Help said after Thursday’s vote. “The change we have made tonight will lead to faster construction of more affordable homes for families, workers and people who need them most.

Helps said she “choked” several times when she heard statements from residents speaking in support of the law on Thursday night.

“It was very heartfelt to see the community come together in this bold political approach,” Helps said.

“This is the first of, hopefully, many tectonic changes in the way Victoria is improving the housing process.

British Columbia Attorney General David Abby, who is also housing minister, applauded the move.

“Cities that are taking steps to speed up approvals for new public and affordable housing are making it easier, cheaper and faster for the province and the federal government to respond to the housing crisis by building homes that are desperately needed,” Abby said.

“Due to the scope of our housing investments, having a partner at the municipal level that facilitates quick approvals helps to open doors faster for people living on the streets and parks, as well as for people who just need more affordable place closer to work.

“Special thanks and recognition are due to the Mayor of Victoria and the City Council for taking this important and significant step in accelerating the approval of affordable housing.

As approvals are now delegated to staff – including development permits and deviations – the change is expected to shorten the time to a typical project by about nine months. Because inflation in housing costs is over one percent per month, new legislation could cut approximately $ 2 million from a typical affordable housing project.

“There are three key factors that put affordable housing projects at risk after entering the municipal approval process: time, cost and uncertainty of approval,” said Jill Atki, executive director of the BC Association for Nonprofit Housing.

“Victoria City Council has removed all three of these barriers and now shines as an example for other municipalities that are serious about affordable housing in their communities.

Of Victoria’s approximately 27,000 household tenants, nearly half spend more than 30 percent of their rental income. BC Housing has a waiting list of more than 1,100 people and families in need of affordable housing in the region.

Helps said the legislation is the first of three major policy moves to close the supply gap and make homes more accessible and accessible to residents.

The next step involves pre-zoning parts of residential neighborhoods for rent. The plan includes designing transportation corridors – such as along Bay Street between Fernwood Street and Jubilee Hospital – for rent. “We’ll tell the builders, ‘Please build rents here, because we need that.'”

The third move involves what Helps calls “missing middle dwellings”, where people will be encouraged to build quadruplexes and sixplexes on city plots. The idea is to make it possible for young families to live in the community in which they work.

“Taken together, these three initiatives make Victoria ready for the future,” said Helps.

“I hope the public accepts pre-rental zoning and missing medium-sized housing components, as well as affordable housing, because we need housing for everyone.”