A new survey finds Central Saanich needs at least 553 new spaces to meet existing daycare needs.
The figures appears in the Central Saanich Child Inventory and Action Plan that analyzed available daycare services in North Saanich, one of six municipalities in Greater Victoria examined by Queenswood Consulting Group, which also reviewed daycare in North Saanich and Sidney.
Saanich, Oak Bay and Highlands joined the three Saanich Peninsula communities in securing a grant of $150,000 from the provincial government through the Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBMC) to conduct the research.
The report estimates that 1,006 children aged o to 12 years in Central Saanich need a daycare space. The community currently has 335 licensed spaces of various sorts, 453 if the definition of daycare is expanded. These figures mean that available spaces currently meet 35 per cent or 45 per cent of need, depending on the chosen definition. In other words, the community needs 553 to 651 new spaces.
“A chronic shortage of daycare is causing significant problems for families with young children - impacting the quality of life, family budgets, and our municipal economies,” it reads.
The report, set to appear Monday before Central Saanich council, offers both regional and local insights.
On the regional level, affordability, flexibility and improvements in the structure and substantive quality of childhood education appear as top priorities among respondents, with nearly 536 respondents across all six municipalities ranking affordability as the most important element of a future child care action plan, followed by child care with flexible hours (288), structured early child care education and programming (279) and better quality child care services (218).
Geography also plays a role, with 83 per cent of surveyed families across all six municipalities preferring child care close to home or their child’s elementary school, if given a choice.
As for Central Saanich, the report finds that the majority of child care spaces are located in the areas where the majority of children 12 and under live: Brentwood Bay, Keating, Saanichton and Tsawout First Nation. Five areas of Central Saanich without any licensed spaces, the report finds.
The report also draws attention to an issue facing North Saanich, warning of a conflict between the growing need for childcare and agriculture.
“In the Saanich Peninsula, development pressures are compounded by the agricultural value and importance of the land. As a result, large portions of the land are protected within the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR), a provincial zone recognizing agriculture as the priority use, with restrictions on non-agricultural uses.”
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