A report into allowing different housing types and densities will soon be in the works for North Saanich.
“Many workers can’t afford to live in North Saanich,” Coun. Ted Daly said to the committee of the whole Monday night in a preface to his motion to review the district’s housing strategy, created in 2008. The goal of the motion, Daly said, is to propose changes to the official community plan and zoning bylaw to encourage affordable or attainable housing.
“The difficulties with these proposals is they go well beyond the densities we approved in the official community plan,” Mayor Alice Finall countered. She doesn’t believe increased density equals increased affordability when it comes to housing and added North Saanich’s population hasn’t increased enough to warrant more density.
“There’s no increase in population because there’s no increase in housing,” Coun. Dunstan Browne said.
Ian Brown, an advocate for workforce housing, told council three-quarters of the employees at the nine largest employers in the McDonald Park area live outside the Peninsula.
North Saanich should encourage the “sort of people who invest in their community, they raise their children here, they give to our charities, they volunteer for their local fire department.”
Former councillor Sheilah Fea added attainable and affordable housing are not the same, and North Saanich could encourage developments in the $350,000 per unit range.
Other speakers expressed opposition to the motion.
Finall and councillors Celia Stock and Elise McMurphie asked that staff prepare reports on areas of the municipality that might lend themselves to increased density.
McMurphie proposed an amendment to Daly’s motion, to have more information on the impact of altering the housing strategy and to outline its impact on services, such as sewer and water. Council was unanimously in favour.
OCP review on hold
Discussion of Coun. Ted Daly’s proposal for a fresh look at the housing strategy came after talks of a review of the full official community plan.
In early January, Coun. Craig Mearns asked that North Saanich review its OCP.
On Monday, Browne, Daly and councillors Craig Mearns and Conny McBride voted to defer talks on that review until the end of June, after budget talks. Councillors Elsie McMurphie and Celia Stock, and Mayor Alice Finall voted against it.
Staff estimated the cost of a full review to be $125,000 to $250,000.
“One of the biggest concerns on this council is increasing taxes,” Finall said. “I do not think it’s wise to incur this type of expense at this time.”
McMurphy said she didn’t support the deferral because an OCP review shouldn’t be done only if there’s money left over in the budget.
Mearns said the current OCP has prohibited some developments in North Saanich.
“We don’t want to see a ton of housing in North Saanich, but there are some areas [that could work],” Mearns said.