OUR VIEW: Keep them in character

Communities must take into account the overall need for affordable housing.

In the race to build new affordable homes on the Saanich Peninsula, is good planning and design being thrown out the window?

There’s an argument to be made that, while it’s good for a community to have a balance in the type of homes available to a variety of people, it should not happen at the expense of a community’s overall look and feel.

This month, a developer and housing society have partnered to propose a plan for a single lot in Brentwood Bay — turning one existing single family home into 40 affordable condos and another six to eight market townhomes.

To save money, it appears building aesthetics have taken a back seat.

And, it come with a catch: that there’s a rush to ensure the society receives a chunk of funding from the province. The government of B.C. announced this week it’s pouring cash into 2,900 affordable units across the province. A good move, yet interestingly timed as the next provincial election is in May.

In Sidney, another society is building a multi-story condo structure with around 50 affordable units. This structure, too, isn’t the most pleasing to look at, compared with other buildings going up in Sidney. And the Town has waived a variety of fees and taxes to accommodate it.

Similar requests are being made of the District of Central Saanich in their case.

To make affordable housing buildings to blend in and become a part of the surrounding area would better serve the communities they are in. We should be past the days when such projects were relegated to the outskirts of town and allowed to look like slums. In all fairness, these current projects, on paper, look nothing like affordable housing built years ago. But they do seem to push the limits of existing form and character requirements.

All that said, communities must take into account the overall need for more affordable homes and be willing to compromise to make it happen.

Hopefully both proponents and local governments won’t be moving so fast and so blindly that communities end up with affordable projects that look like they belong in a different era.