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Central Saanich councillors push to waive development fees on affordable housing

Pending motion would pause affordable housing and community amenity fees for two years
Couns. Sarah Riddell and Niall Paltiel are set to move a motion in February which if passed would see the district put a two-year pause on charging certain development fees for projects which will help address a shortage of affordable housing. (Black Press Media file photo)

A pair of Central Saanich councillors plan to make a motion to council for the district to waive development fees for projects aimed at helping to increase the inventory of affordable homes in the district.

Couns. Niall Paltiel and Sarah Riddell’s notice of motion appeared on the agenda for the regular council meeting of Jan. 23, and is currently scheduled to be moved and debated on Feb. 13.

If passed, it would amend the district’s community amenity contribution policy to waive all community amenity and affordable housing amenity fees from all affordable rental, affordable home ownership, and purpose-built rental applications for two years, as well as directing staff to further explore additional policy or funding initiatives to create needs-based housing opportunities in Central Saanich.

”It’s coming from the feedback we got during the municipal election where so many constituents were concerned for their own housing security or for that of their kids and grandkids,” said Paltiel. “Consistently the cost and availability of housing was raised as an issue.”

READ MORE: New housing report says Central Saanich families find it increasingly difficult to find housing

Paltiel said the fees work out to $7,500 per unit in the development application in Central Saanich, and reports have found government fees typically make up 30 per cent of the total cost of new builds in Greater Victoria.

This means the potential waiving of fees is not really intended to serve as a financial incentive to build affordable homes in the district, but rather to signal that the district is willing to work to make housing more affordable for all.

”There are a lot of barriers, by policy makers, by neighbours or communities in some cases, to the creation of affordable housing or even market rental housing, so part of this is us showing we have heard housing and affordability is a key issue the community is facing in Central Saanich,” he said. “We are putting ourselves out there as a municipality that is prepared to take this head-on.”

While he said it is difficult to say how his council colleagues will vote when the motion is made, Paltiel said it will provide an opportunity to take a meaningful step to addressing an issue nearly every politician is talking about these days, even if it won’t end up being a silver-bullet solution.