LETTER: Oak Bay Lodge should be used to benefit disadvantaged children

Re: Mayor not in favour of low barrier housing at Oak Bay Lodge.

The future use of Oak Bay Lodge seems obvious considering the growing proportion of disadvantaged children. The 2016 Census found 20 per cent of Canadian children in lone-parent families; 10 per cent in step-families; and 1.4 per cent without parents. The number of children living with a lone father grew 35 per cent since 2001, while those with a lone mother grew five per cent.

These children are disadvantaged through no fault of their own, and their guardians also face heightened challenges. The disadvantages are especially lopsided in places like Oak Bay where low affordability exacerbates economic disparities.

The experiences of children in chronic sub-standard living conditions lead to a spectrum of negative life outcomes. Oak Bay Lodge could and should be used specifically to benefit children in this disadvantaged 30 per cent. The buildings should be renovated (or replaced) for this purpose.

These children and their families live in a silent crisis due to social stigma. Some of the heightened “risks” these children experience are medical. Such a use would thus meet the health and medical criteria of the Capital Regional Hospital District, while the project is marketed as accessible housing.

One key need of these children is easy access to quality schools where they can engage and prepare. Oak Bay Lodge is one block from Willows Elementary and Oak Bay High (and preschool), and an easy walk to Monterey Middle School and others. A large grocery store is two blocks away. Cars would be unnecessary for resident families.

These children also need “low-barrier housing,” but a children-centred solution would not bring homeless people to this neighborhood. It would, however, mitigate the homelessness challenge in Greater Victoria by freeing up more relatively affordable housing west of Oak Bay.

Selection criteria would focus on the needs of children and their families and be handled by qualified staff and partners, including schools. Programs would support education and career development, health and social development, and medical services and supports. The low-bar criteria of BC Housing would not be used. The spaces would instead be filled by children and their families without critical reference to wealth or income other than their ability to pay below-market housing costs.

Outright public ownership of Oak Bay Lodge dictates that any housing use would be offered at rental prices that are lower than market rates, despite renovation or replacement costs. The “housing barrier” at this non-profit facility is thus inherently lower than Oak Bay’s decoupled market prices. Disadvantaged children and their families are the most deserving beneficiaries of this inherently low barrier.

Tom Okey

Victoria

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