Oak Bay is shrinking and aging at the same time according to a provincially mandated Housing Needs Study released to the Tweed City this week.
Oak Bay is among the first towns in B.C. to receive the study and council will soon decide what to do with it. On Monday night Oak Bay council sent the 46-page report back for a few amendments of “clarity and additional data,” said Mayor Kevin Murdoch.
The Housing Needs Study, produced by planning consultants Urban Matters, noted Oak Bay’s median age of 52.4 is “much higher than the CRD’s median age of 44.8.”
“Between 2006 and 2016, the number of [Oak Bay] residents under 65 declined by 1,050, while the number of residents 65 and over grew by 880 residents,” the report says.
The report also asserts that Oak Bay is missing the ‘middle housing’ piece of affordable, rental, singles and family housing. It adds up to a current estimated shortage of 349 bedrooms to make up for its share of the housing shortfall in Greater Victoria. This is based on a projected 1.1 per cent growth and relative building development, said Murdoch.
It should be noted that these are occupied bedrooms and does not address that Oak Bay’s proliferation of empty bedrooms.
“Keep in mind we’ve had a projected growth rate of 0.5 per cent in the OCP since 1996,” Murdoch said. “And we’ve never come close to that.”
The report also projects a need for 647 more bedrooms within five years.
While Oak Bay was among the first wave of all municipalities in B.C. to order the study, the report’s key findings will not prompt Oak Bay council into any immediate action, Murdoch noted.
The reality is Oak Bay is bereft of options, Murdoch noted.
The Corporation’s district land is all used up for parks, buildings, services and parking lots.
“Ultimately this report is a baseline,” Murdoch said. “We will use it with the secondary suites study and housing studies to create our future development and housing plan, which we want to complete this [election] term.”
Back in April the province mandated all municipalities and regional districts in B.C. to have the report completed by April 2022.
For consistency purposes, the study is based on data from BC Assessment, BC Housing, BC Stats, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation and Statistics Canada Census.
The report comes at a time of polarizing arguments as Oak Bay is expected to decrease in population by 500 people over the next 20 years (according to CRD’s 2018 regional growth strategy) while the rest of the region balloons.
In the past few years, Oak Bay council has denied a series of multi-unit development projects that would have added hundreds of bedrooms.
The Quest 15-unit condo proposal on Oak Bay Avenue was denied in 2017 (a new application has been submitted nearly two metres lower and with a penthouse removed), while the Clive developers reduced their proposal from 23 suites to 19.
There’s also the United Church’s 96-unit mixed housing development proposal (including affordable housing) that they essentially gave up on due to public backlash but plan on bringing back.
– This story was updated on Dec. 13 to correct two errors regarding development applications. The United Church abandoned its original application for the 96-unit mixed housing project before it made it to council. The Clive proposal’s reduction from 23 to 19 suites was not a council ask. We regret the error.