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Victoria’s historic affordable housing policy under review on Saanich Peninsula

The policy promises to speed development processes
Sidney and Central Saanich are reviewing efforts by the City to Victoria to speed up affordable housing projects, but have also signalled that no immediate changes are coming. Both communities (along with North Saanich) are currently reviewing their respective Official Community Plan. (Black Press Media file photo)

A policy designed to streamline affordable housing projects in Victoria is drawing attention but not yet any imitations on the Saanich Peninsula.

Victoria councillors last week approved a policy allowing housing projects owned and operated by non-profit, co-operative or government agencies to secure the maximum allowable density for a development’s proposed site. Eligible projects must be consistent with the Official Community Plan and design guidelines.

The policy change accelerates the approval timeline for certain projects by delegating them to the director of sustainable planning, instead of going through council consideration and votes. Victoria staff believes it will encourage investment in projects deemed affordable and reduce the risk of projects falling through due to factors like construction costs soaring as applicants await city approval.

Sidney’s chief administrative officer Randy Humble said the municipality follows local government initiatives, such as efforts to support the creation of affordable housing, across the Great Victoria area and beyond.

“Affordable housing is a challenging issue throughout the region,” he said, adding that every municipality is unique. “Within, the Town of Sidney there have not been notable delays in the processing and approvals of major development projects.”

RELATED: City of Victoria adopts ‘historic’ affordable housing process

Humble added that the draft Official Community Plan includes affordable housing initiatives. “Council will review public feedback on the OCP and provide further direction to staff during a special council meeting on April 28,” he said last week. Sidney has since re-scheduled that event to May 5.

Britt Burnham, Central Saanich’s manager of community services, said council has not considered whether to proceed with an approach similar to Victoria’s.

“Each municipality and local government has different timelines,” she said. “In Central Saanich, rezoning projects reach the approval process within six to eight months, which is significantly faster than what is often able to be done in larger cities.”

Overall, the municipality supports efforts to bring more affordable housing to the region.

“The district has added a number of housing policies to the draft Official Community Plan, and is seeking public comments on the draft OCP until May 20, after which time a final draft will be presented to (council),” she said.

Black Press Media has also reached out to North Saanich for comment.

– with files from Jake Romphf

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