Saanich Peninsula residents push for more affordable housing

Marigold Lands 230-plus unit residential project sees general support in Central Saanich public hearing

Eric Wilson (at podium) voiced his thoughts on the proposed Marigold Lands development project.

Eric Wilson (at podium) voiced his thoughts on the proposed Marigold Lands development project.

While supportive of a large residential development in Central Saanich, residents voiced some concerns at Tuesday night’s public hearing for the Marigold Lands proposal.

The proposal includes 233 residential units in a mix of housing — including apartment buildings, townhouses and duplexes — and commercial space and planned park land.

Of those 233 units, eight are deemed to be below market rentals to address the affordable housing issue across the region.

This, however wasn’t enough for some of the speakers at the hearing.

“It needs to have a lot more affordable housing,” said one resident of Brentwood Bay, adding it creates a problem in the community where all of the young, vibrant life is moving away and the people they need to care for the older population are gone.

“We need to create a lot more low income housing. I urge you to make sure that all developers do a full 10 per cent.”

Project Planner for Marigold Lands Development Joaquin Karakas walked through the key components and values behind what they are seeking from the District of Central Saanich.

The developer is asking the council to amend its Official Community Plan, Land Use and Phased Development Agreement bylaws to accommodate the project.

“At its core, at its heart, the bylaws before council tonight will really support a vision for a compact, mixed use, walkable and sustainable neighbourhood that will integrate sensitively into the surrounding (neighbourhood),” Karakas said.

The proposal, he said, would provide a large range of housing options.

“It’s really a vision for a mix of housing types and tenures to support a range of income levels, lifestyles and age groups, and to create a better balance of housing and jobs.”

He said a key component of the project and responding to local sustainability goals is the revision of a local neighbourhood serving commercial component.

They will likely have a coffee shop, small retail outlet to provide local goods and services, along with a potential office space.

One of the big factors of the Marigold project is the proposal to provide a minimum of eight below market units for a period of 10 years.

Resident Eric Wilson said projects like Marigold are needed so young locals can get into the housing market and stay in the communities they care about.

“For me I want to be able to show my kids the places that I grew up and I want to be able to give them that strong connection to their community,” he said.

He said the sad reality is young locals like himself and his wife are being priced out of the markets that they grew up in due to inflated house prices.

“We want our communities to thrive so how can we expect our communities to grow and thrive if the generation coming up is being pressed out of the markets which they grew up in?” he asked.

MLA for Saanich North and the Islands, Gary Holman also expressed his concern with regards to affordable housing options on the Peninsula. He presented the Saanich Peninsula Affordable Housing Needs Assessment to council a few months ago, indicating there are about 550 families — according to 2010/2011 data — that spend more than 50 per cent of their income on housing costs alone.

Holman said the need for affordable housing is dire.

“There is provincial funding available, there is regional funding, there is federal funding. It’s actually quite remarkable. At this particular time there’s a real opportunity to seek out funding from the senior government agencies and the regional district,” said Holman.

He said he hasn’t seen it where the proponent has pursued that option  at all, adding he thinks council should consider trying to achieve a greater number of units with a housing agreement attached to them that would ensure affordability and perpetuity.

“After 10 years there’s still going to be an affordable housing issue on the Peninsula … so it’s very important.

“I think theres an opportunity here to achieve more in terms of affordable housing and I urge the proponent and council to persue those opportunities.”

Central Saanich councillors will now deliberate on the proposed bylaw amendment requests and are expected to have a decision on whether to allow the project to proceed — as presented or with changes — at an upcoming council meeting.