Monday morning’s Mayors’ Breakfast, hosted by the Saanich Peninsula Chamber of Commerce, had all three Peninsula mayors talking to attendees about housing.
The mayors of two municipalities explained they’re making an effort toward opening doors to affordable housing – Sidney is reviewing its rezoning bylaws, which sounds dry, but could mean big changes in terms of secondary suites and infill housing; meanwhile Central Saanich is undertaking a densification study to see where and how new kinds of housing could fit in to the district.
Affordable housing is vital to maintaining a workforce on the Peninsula. Too many workers in economy-driving industries, such as manufacturing, based on the Peninsula, commute here from more affordable communities, including the Highlands, Langford and even Mill Bay.
While North Saanich is considering reviewing its official community plan, the likelihood of seeing density and affordable housing in that district is low. Mayor Alice Finall recently told the Peninsula News Review an OCP review would be “ridiculous” and “unnecessary,” not to mention expensive. Finall’s views on the OCP will be reflected by a large proportion of her municipality’s residents, who won’t want to see small lots, secondary suites and apartments popping up next to their estates and farms.
But North Saanich cradles Sidney geographically. Both municipalities are economic hubs that require young workers, many of whom have families and are just starting out. North Saanich should make an effort to encourage affordable housing, beyond financial contributions to the regional Housing Trust Fund.
Young workers are as important to a community as established residents who have many years behind them. We live in one of the most expensive corners of Canada, but for the sake of helping businesses find employees and in the name of diverse communities, let’s see our three municipalities encourage more affordable housing.