Saanich Peninsula housing partnership gaining ground

Group aims to work with developers to start supplying affordable workforce housing as soon as next year.

  • Feb. 26, 2015 7:00 a.m.

With the formation of an interim board of directors this month, the Saanich Peninsula Housing Partnership continues to gain traction in its bid to create affordable workforce housing on the Peninsula.

Spearheaded by Tim Wake, an independent consultant with 16 years of experience working in creating affordable workforce housing, and Jim Bennett, the former president of the Vancouver Island Real Estate Board, the project seeks to create affordable housing, both for ownership and rental, for the Peninsula workforce.

Wake recently presented the partnership’s goals to all three Peninsula councils at the tri-municipal meeting Feb. 11, and stressed that the group is not looking for funding from local government.

“We’re asking that council supports, in principle, the creation of the Saanich Peninsula Housing Partnership,” said Wake. “Success is the delivery of housing, not just the plan.”

Several councillors at the table congratulated the partnership team and expressed their personal support.

“It’s time to do something, not just talk about it,” said Sidney councillor Barbara Fallot.

She also stressed that developers need to get on board with stronger sound proofing to ensure multi-unit housing is family-friendly.

The partnership’s goals include securing seed funding to eventually become self-funding, securing commitments for ten workforce housing units per quarter in the first year of operations, annually measuring and consistently increasing the percentage of the workforce that is resident on the Peninsula, beginning in 2016, and creating a qualification and wait list process to ensure employees working locally actually occupy new workforce housing units.

With dozens of passionate stakeholders, an interim board of directors and an action plan now in place, the partnership seems to be moving steadily forward.

The process for the initiative began in the fall of 2013, after Elizabeth May, leader of the federal Green Party, kept hearing from residents and local businesses that affordable housing was a major issue on the Peninsula. She’d heard about Wake and his efforts in Whistler to increase workforce housing, and got in touch.

“I wanted to support a forum for honest, respectable people to share on what the road blocks are to getting something done,” she said.

Not only does a deficit in affordable housing negatively impact the community, it also threatens employment, she said.

“People are more likely to leave a good job here on the Peninsula if they find a house they love elsewhere.”

May, who attended the recent tri-municipal meeting in support of Wake’s presentation, said she was inspired to use her convening power to get a round table together to start discussing some real solutions to the problem.

“I’ve always been convinced that people of goodwill can come together and make a difference,” she said.

Due in large part to May’s tireless efforts, the partnership’s stakeholders have come from a wide cross-section in the community, including elected officials, municipal staff, architects and developers, local businesses and members of the chamber of commerce.

Next up, the group still needs to establish a member to actually start approaching developers and a designated group to secure seed funding.

Emphasizing that continuing on with the status quo is unlikely to rectify the affordable housing shortage, Wake’s takeaway message to the three councils was “Why not?”

“We’re not asking for money,” he said. “We’re just asking for your support. There’s no risk here, so what have we got to lose?”

For more information, visit http://bit.ly/1vQ2Afm for the full report from the tri-municipal meeting agenda.

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