North Saanich approves Habitat for Humanity development

27-home complex has 10 affordable units

A new North Saanich development, with 10 homes dedicated to Habitat for Humanity, will likely go ahead.

At a Monday night meeting, the 27-home project passed third reading at North Saanich council unanimously. The development, by Reay Developments Ltd., will be on three lots (2166 and 2172 Bakerview Pl., as well as 9270 Lochside Dr.). The plan still requires fourth reading and covenants to be registered, but North Saanich councillor Murray Weisenberger said those are formalities, and the development has passed its largest hurdle.

The value of the land donated to Habitat for Humanity is worth $1.2 million according to developer Brian Berglund, and it will be the largest single project ever undertaken by Habitat for Humanity Victoria.

“I’m so, so proud of having that come through,” said Weisenberger. At the meeting, he said he felt it was the greatest accomplishment of this term.

In a follow-up interview with the PNR, Weisenberger said he felt the developer took the right approach by asking councillors individually what they wanted to see in a project before submitting plans.

Habitat for Humanity works with families and developers to provide homes for families by selling homes at a fair market value, financed with no-down payment, no-interest mortgages set at a maximum of 30 per cent of the family’s gross income. Families invest 500 hours of their own labour, called “sweat equity,” into building their home.

If a Habitat for Humanity homeowner wishes to upgrade, they sell their home back to Habitat so another family in need can take advantage.

In a prior interview with the PNR, Habitat for Humanity Victoria CEO Yolanda Meijer said “This project has us working with a developer to achieve something that wouldn’t be possible without their incredible land donation.

Weisenberger said while there was some desire for a beach access to be provided by the developer, he felt the idea was introduced too late in the process to be fair.

Had it been introduced earlier, he said he would have supported it.

Mayor Alice Finall said at the meeting that while she opposed the project in the past, she did not oppose it at this stage after hearing from Habitat for Humanity and neighbours.

However, she continued to have concerns about the development’s proximity to soil that still needed remediation from airport runoff. She also preferred to have the developer improve beach access.

Weisenberger said the District of North Saanich could improve beach access themselves at a later date, since it was not a lengthy or steep access point.

Neighbours were largely supportive because of the affordable housing component, which encompasses 37 per cent of the development.

The ones who were opposed were concerned not with the project’s aims, but rather speeding cars which would endanger people backing out of driveways and effects on wildlife.

Coun. Geoff Orr said that in the future, both North Saanich and Sidney could approach the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, which maintains the nearby Pat Bay highway, to assess traffic concerns.

Meijer said at the meeting that they were hoping to set a precedent and foster similar partnerships with developers, “because I think it’s really a model of what can happen when you get a for-profit, a not-for-profit, and a municipality working together” to address a systemic problem in the region.

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