Tag Archives: affordable housing

Saanich News: Affordable Housing

We asked the Saanich mayor and council candidates to provide their thoughts and strategies on affordable housing.

Dean Murdock, council candidate:

We need to work with builders and regional partners to get a mix of housing options that are affordable for all levels of income. When families can afford to settle in our community, they invest in housing, send their kids to local schools, and buy local products and services. Our region’s future depends on affordability for families. Permitting secondary suites is another way to make housing more accessible for home-buyers and increase options for renters.

New developments must have affordable units: Murdock

MEDIA RELEASE

For Immediate Release
November 8, 2011

New developments must have affordable units: Murdock

Victoria – Saanich Councillor Dean Murdock wants to set a minimum of affordable units for large development projects. This morning Murdock announced an Affordable Saanich Action Plan that includes a 10 percent contribution of affordable units that will add hundreds of new units to Saanich’s housing stock.

“On the doorstep, parents tell me they are concerned that their children cannot afford to live in their own community and will have to move up-Island to find housing they can afford,” Murdock said. “That’s not how you sustain an economy or a community.”

Murdock’s proposal would see all large projects offer 10 percent of housing units at below market value for sale or rent. The title of the unit would reflect the below-market cost, and the unit can only be re-sold or rented below market cost to keep the benefit going for future owners and renters.

“We’ve seen dozens of new projects in Saanich over the past three years,” Murdock said. “If each of those projects included 10 percent affordable units, we would have added hundreds of new affordable homes in Saanich already. We should be making up for lost time.”

Saanich has 2663 units of social housing and contributes $300,000 per year to the Regional Housing Trust Fund. The Saanich Strategic Plan calls for an incremental increase in units each year.

The first-term Councillor is seeking re-election to Saanich Council and a seat on the CRD Board.

Municipal elections are November 19.

Affordable Saanich Action Plan

Our region is a desirable place to live and raise a family. Unfortunately, the increasing cost of housing can be prohibitive to many. It is important to ensure that our region remains affordable and that housing options are available to all members of society. We can achieve regional affordability by:

– Requiring a minimum 10 per cent contribution of affordable units (constructed, not cash-in-lieu) for all residential developments of 10 units or more.
– Regulating and permitting secondary suites and working with community associations to ensure that the suites respect the quality and character of the community.
– Offering surplus municipal property (not green space or parks) on long-term, no-cost lease in exchange for publicly-operated affordable rental units.
– Working with regional partners and senior levels of government to finance construction of publicly-operated affordable rental units.

First All Candidates Meeting tackles suites, LRT, and regional planning

The first of nine all-candidates meetings for Saanich council hopefuls is in the bag.

Hosted by the Victoria Real Estate Board Monday, councillor candidates had the opportunity to speak on such issues as legalizing secondary suites, light rail on Douglas Street and McKenzie Avenue and slow processing of building permits.

“Right now there’s no incentive. Those legalizing (their secondary suite) are spending more money than those cutting corners,” said candidate Harald Wolf, advocating for an expanded border for legal suites. Incumbent Leif Wergeland agreed that giving homeowners incentives to legalize would help.

Dean Murdock and Vicki Sanders stressed that legalizing suites is a safety measure. Both incumbents supported expanding the legal suite area beyond homes south of McKenzie Avenue, so long as the new areas are near amenities and transit.

Rob Wickson, a strong advocate for light-rail transit, said the cost of a system from downtown Victoria to Langford comes with a hefty price tag. But he said residents aren’t aware that much of their tax dollars are spent to improve roads used by single-occupancy vehicles.

“What is the expense of not doing (light-rail on Douglas)?” asked incumbent Vic Derman, saying if it isn’t implemented the region will likely “degenerate.”

Susan Brice and Paul Gerrard both called for a referendum once a full business case is available. That would allow Capital Region residents to decide themselves whether a billion-dollar light-rail system is their preference.

Casey Edge, director of the Canadian Homebuilders’ Association, asked candidates how they would improve the notoriously slow issuance of building permits in Saanich.

“We’re not Langford. Saanich will never be Langford. We have many more hoops for people to jump through, like environmental and transit (expectations),” said incumbent Judy Brownoff, defending a more thorough approval process.

Nichola Wade commended Saanich staff for doing what is asked by council, even if it takes more time.

“We (as councillors) set the vision, that’s our role – it’s not handling things at a staff level,” Wade said.

Candidates Ingrid Ip and Jesse McClinton were absent from the meeting.

The three mayoral candidates were not asked to take part in Monday’s debate.

There are eight more all-candidates meetings scheduled prior to the Nov. 19 election.

14 affordable family townhouses

Saanich approves next phase of Campus of Care on former Mount View school lands
By Kyle Slavin – Saanich News

Affordable rental housing for families is the focus of the next construction project to be built on the former Mount View school property.

As part of Mount View Heights, The Vergo, a block of 14 affordable townhouses will be built to house families struggling to afford the high cost of rent.

“These units will be meeting an important social good,” said Coun. Dean Murdock during Monday’s committee of the whole meeting.

Council voted unanimously to move ahead despite minor concerns with the project, which needed approval of a development permit.

Mount View Heights is a $100-million project put forward by the Capital Regional Hospital District. The CRHD administers capital funding for projects while the Vancouver Island Health Authority is mandated with delivering heath care to the region.

Coun. Vic Derman urged the applicants to reconsider how the units will be heated. Plans to use baseboard heating will increase the carbon footprint of a project aiming for LEED gold certification, he said.

Architect Paul Hammond said the original goal was to have a heating system connected to all buildings on the property. But, because The Vergo will be built prior to several other larger buildings, the townhouse project would’ve had to bear the cost of the extensive heating system.

The townhouses are expected to rent for $1,150 to $1,250 per month and are gearing to lower-income families making between $42,000 and $58,000 per year.

Though most councillors shared the sentiment that a few opportunities were missed with the project, specifically the absence of a park.

However, all councillors felt the benefits completely outweighed their concerns.

“These 14 families’ lives will change when they get into one of these units,” said Coun. Susan Brice.

The Mount View Heights Campus of Care project includes plans for a seven-storey 244-bed residential care facility, a six-storey 112-unit independent seniors living home, 52 units of affordable housing and a commercial building.

Currently, a 36-suite building providing supportive housing for the homeless is nearing completion on the site. The units were formerly part of the athlete’s village in Whistler used during the 2010 Olympics.

Identifying opportunities for affortable units

Saanich approach to affordable housing making homes more costly, homebuilders association says
Kyle Slavin, Saanich News

Saanich’s affordable housing fund actually makes homes less affordable, claims the Canadian Home Builders’ Association.

“What’s happening is, rather than creating affordable units, (Saanich is) contributing to a lack of affordable housing in Greater Victoria,” Casey Edge, executive officer of the CHBA’s Victoria branch said. “Every time the cost of housing increases, consumers get knocked out of the market because they can no longer afford to buy.”

The municipal affordable housing fund began in 2008. It was originally council’s response to developers who wanted Saanich to do more than make an annual contribution of $297,000 to the Capital Regional District’s Housing Trust Fund.

Right now, developers are encouraged to contribute actual units, which can then be sold as affordable housing. Alternatively, they can make a cash contribution to the affordable housing fund – the current formula calls for $1,500 per unit in the development. The latter option has proven the more popular one among developers.

“CRD housing has not been receptive to (having) one unit here, one unit there,” Mayor Frank Leonard said. “I’d love for somebody to knock on our door with a solution.”

Leonard notes that money in the fund has contributed to affordable housing, pointing to the Pacifica Housing complex on Douglas Street.

But in Edge’s opinion, the municipality needs to come up with a better plan.

Though $1,500 seems small, he points out it’s another cost to the consumer buying a home.

“That’s something elected officials seem to have troubles getting their heads around. It’s not a small amount of money when someone now doesn’t qualify for a mortgage because the costs keep going up,” he said.

Developers, in turn, need more direction from council about how much is expected to be contributed towards affordable housing, transportation and sustainability features.

Though Saanich’s affordable housing fund currently sits at $91,500, Saanich is expecting more than $100,000 from a handful of developments currently in the pipeline.

However, councillors have repeatedly said that affordable housing units are worth significantly more than what’s raised by cash contributions.

“It’s generated some missed opportunities where we could’ve incorporated affordable units into larger projects,” Coun. Dean Murdock said. “Even though we have the advantage of a cash contribution, it would’ve been far more advantageous to have units.”

With physical units in its inventory, Saanich would have a better chance to negotiate with developers to secure affordable units in major centres, Murdock said.

“What we’ll need to see is a strategy on how to utilize that funding to leverage the greatest advantage to generate units in the community,” he said. “I suspect as we continue to generate funds we will see more opportunities to locate affordable housing units and to build up that inventory of units.”

Secondary suites provide badly-needed housing

For landlords and tenants, back to school housing crunch make for tense relationships

By Kyle Slavin – Saanich News

Demand is down, but that doesn’t mean the University of Victoria needs fewer dorm rooms on campus.

“If we had another building we would fill it. People like to live on campus because it’s so convenient,” said Kathryn MacLeod, director of residence services at UVic. “I don’t think we’re in the danger of not needing more … It would be great to have more residences.”

At this time last year, there were more than 1,400 people on a waitlist for student housing.

But last week – just days before the semester started – there were only 179 people waiting for a bed.

MacLeod attributes that to better information given to returning students, telling them their chances of securing on-campus housing are slim.

And with a slightly higher number of students at the school this year, more will be living in apartments and basement suites in the community.

Rob Hanzek, who rents out the lower level of his home in Gordon Head, reminds landlords to ensure they have a very clear tenancy agreement in place and know their rights if they end up having to deal with “slum” tenants.

Last year, he said, he rented his suite to two students who held loud parties that repeatedly drew the ire of neighbours and police, and damaged his home before moving out.

“I thought I was being diligent the first time around. I spoke to their previous landlords and I did all of the due diligence that I normally do with any tenant, and there weren’t any flags that came up,” Hanzek said.

When he tried to give a 30-day notice to end their tenancy, the students disputed it and stayed another 30 days in his home.

A spokesperson with the Ministry of Housing and Social Development, which includes the Residential Tenancy Branch, says disputes are common. The best way to avoid them is through landlord-tenant co-operation.

Both parties have extensive responsibilities and rights to ensure the others’ are protected.

Saanich is currently looking at legalizing secondary suites, which aims to give renters and landlords another level of comfort and security. Since secondary suites have already existed, legalizing them would allow for better enforcement, said Saanich Coun. Dean Murdock.

“What I think it would do is improve the living conditions …” he said.

“It’ll allow Saanich to evaluate whether or not those suites provide the standard of living, that they conform to the building code, that they are appropriate for inhabitants.

“Permitting secondary suites is an effective way for council to bring some organization to a rather chaotic situation.”

Hanzek encourages both landlords and tenants to brush up on the Residential Tenancy Act so they aren’t put in a sticky situation long after the fact.

“I’m renting (my suite) out again and I fortunately found tenants whose parents were very involved in their pursuit of a location, so I have a good rapport,” he said. “But I always have it in the back of my mind that it could happen again, there’s no question about that.”

A project the community can be proud of

Deadline set for demolishing eyesores on Inverness and Cloverdale
By Kyle Slavin – Saanich News

A half-block of derelict buildings will soon no longer be an eyesore for passing motorists or nearby residents.

Four vacant houses on the corner of Cloverdale Avenue and Inverness Road will be demolished by August 2011 to make way for a 42-unit residence and coffee shop.

At public hearing Tuesday night, Saanich council unanimously gave first, second and third readings to issue a rezoning application and development permit to build The Rutledge complex.

The process has taken years, with agreement between council and the developer taking a number of meetings to achieve.

“We’ve seen this issue come before us (at least) five times,” Coun. Dean Murdock said, unsatisfied that the development needed to come back so many times to get what council wanted.

“It should not have come to this. I don’t want to see this chamber become a place of negotiation on community amenities.”

Council approved the development after securing a number of covenants on the property.

As well as a firm deadline for demolition of the existing dilapidated homes, council was able to get a commitment on 32 environmental sustainability initiatives, a contribution to Saanich’s Affordable Housing Fund, alternative transportation incentives for resident and upgrades to the adjacent Rutledge Park.

Tuesday’s public hearing was a continuation of one held last week, which lasted four hours before council asked the developer to return with more information and specifics.

“I think we got the correct development here, rather than saying ‘we need something on that space and anything would do.’ I think that didn’t happen here,” said Coun. Paul Gerrard.

Though many people came out in strong support of the development, there were also a number of concerns, which Gerrard said were addressed by council.

“Democracy’s a messy process, but it certainly turned out a better development here for the community,” said Coun. Wayne Hunter.

The Rutledge will be a 42-unit residence with a small commercial business on the main floor. A covenant was secured to ensure the use of that space be limited to a coffee shop for at least two years.

Coun. Vicki Sanders thanked the community for their patience and input in the long-fought battle to improve the corner properties.

“This has been a black cloud for council for quite some time,” she said. “But I look forward to the day when I get asked ‘Where’s Cloverdale and Inverness?’ and I can say, ‘It’s that gorgeous building next to that beautiful park.’”

Final reading of the applications will go to council at a later date.

Making density work for Rutledge

Public hearing adjourned after marathon session

By Kyle Slavin – Saanich News

Saanich council will next Tuesday readdress a 42-unit apartment complex with commercial space that stalled following a marathon public hearing this week.

Coun. Dean Murdock said he was “disappointed” at the level of committment from the developer to capitalize on alternative transportation opportunities in the neighbourhood around Cloverdale Avenue at Inverness Street.

“This complex is in a great location, near quality public transit … and in close proximity to the Galloping Goose. The proponent could’ve taken better advantage of that by promoting alternatives,” he said.

Transportation is a key issue for councillors and residents who spoke, as there are concerns surrounding increased traffic and street parking in the area due to a 16-stall parking variance being requested.

Murdock said he’s also disappointed that there will be no affordable housing units offering in the complex. Instead, the developer will contribute $63,000 to the municipal housing trust fund.

There was also consternation, Murdock said, among councillors, that the applicant was ambiguous in committing to specific ecologically sustainable features for the complex.

The public hearing reconvenes Tuesday (Aug. 17) at 7:30 p.m. at Saanich municipal hall.

Secondary Suites Public Hearing

SECONDARY SUITES IN SAANICH ON DISCUSSION TABLE

Jun 16, 2010 CFAX 1070

A PUBLIC HEARING IS SCHEDULED FOR NEXT WEEK ON THE ISSUE OF PERMITTING SECONDARY SUITES SOUTH OF MCKENZIE IN SAANICH. SAANICH COUNCILLOR DEAN MURDOCK SAYS THERE ARE A NUMBER OF QUESTIONS ON THE TABLE, WHICH HE THINKS WILL BE TACKLED AT THE MEETING.

“There were a number of questions raised around restrictions, for those who say have a boarder or a student living with them, and they would possibly want to have a secondary suite as well, confusion around the wording in the by-law amendment, whether or not dual purposes will be permitted, how you would accomodate vehicle parking in that situation, whether or not you would still be allowed to have family members stay with you as well as secondary suites.”

SAANICH IS NOT THE ONLY MUNICIPALITY WRESTLING WITH THE IDEA OF PERMITTING SECONDARY SUITES. OAK BAY JUST RELEASED THE RESULTS OF A PUBLIC FEED BACK CAMPAIGN ON THE ISSUE WHICH FOUND A VERY SLIM MAJORITY IN FAVOUR OF PERMITTING SECONDARY SUITES THE MEETING TAKES PLACE TUESDAY AT 730 PM IN THE COUNCIL CHAMBER.

Saanich Council Supports Secondary Suites

SAANICH ONE STEP CLOSER TO ALLOWING SECONDARY SUITES

CFAX 1070 – Apr 14, 2010

TUESDAY NIGHT COUNCIL ENDORSED A MOTION THAT MOVES THE MUNICIPALITY FORWARD IN THE LONG DISCUSSED ISSUE OF SECONDARY SUITES.

SAANICH COUNCILOR DEAN MURDOCK IS HAPPY ABOUT THIS BUT SAYS THERE ARE STILL SOME CHALLENGES INCLUDING NOISE, OWNER OCCUPANCY AND PARKING

“So one of the conditions for permitting a secondary suite would be off street parking. You would have to provide a parking spot within the property, you couldn’t rely on street parking as a way for folks to park their vehicles. That goes towards addressing the situation I don’t think it’s going to be a perfect solution but certainly it allowes us to bring some semblance of control.”

SPEAKING ON CFAX 1070 WITH MURRAY LANGDON MURDOCK SAYS THIS WILL TRY TO APPLY SOME MECHANISM OF CONTROL TO A RATHER CHAOTIC SITUATION.