District housing study due out in August

Craig Mearns says report should have been made public by now

North Saanich has had its new housing strategy consultation report since late June, says Councillor Craig Mearns, but council hasn’t revealed it in public.

Mearns said municipal staff have been asked to review its contents, but added it offers similar results to a housing study conducted by the District in 2008.

Mayor Alice Finall told the News Review the report is with staff, summarizing its recommendations to present to council at its Aug. 19 meeting. She said the reason it has taken so long is the lack of staff in the wake of recent resignations. The only planner left in the municipality is the director, Mark Brodrick, who Finall said was not the lead on the file.

Mearns, however, chalks the delay in publicly releasing the report up to politics.

“I feel that if it had said what the mayor wanted it to say, it would have been released by now.”

The 2008 housing study recommended changes to the official community plan and building bylaws to accommodate secondary suites and dwellings, identifying locations and conditions for small lot, multi-family developments affordable for moderate income households. Three of the report’s recommendations — for smaller lot homes, low density multi-unit housing and medium density multi-unit housing — were never adopted by council. They have been the subject of much debate by the current council, which has been in a 4-3 split on such issues since the last municipal election.

Mearns said even though staff are reviewing the most recent housing consultation study, completed by CTQ Consulting of Kelowna, no one has the right to change its findings. He said as long as the terms of reference for the report were met, it must be made public. He also anticipated more political wrangling to come.

“All we want to see are these things coming back to council in a timely fashion,” Mearns said, referring to the council majority of himself and councillors Conny McBride, Dunstan Browne and Ted Daly.

“We don’t want to force things down people’s throats.”