Sidney is going to be challenged in the new year to take action on the affordable — or workforce — housing issue that has been festering on the Saanich Peninsula for years.
A proposal by the Greater Victoria Rental Development Society (GVRDS) would put a five-storey apartment building downtown Sidney on Fourth Street, right across from the ANAVETS building. It’s a project worth an estimated $11 million in construction costs and has 56 units of rental housing — of which at least half will be priced below the average market rate for similar-sized rentals in the region. The rest — and planned commercial space on the ground floor — will be set at market rates to subsidize the more affordable units.
It’s the same project, with only minor changes, that the GVRDS presented to the municipality earlier this year for the parking lot on Third Street, south of the fire hall. Had the Town and the Society not been so far apart on the price of the land, the project might be weeks ahead.
The GVRDS is still hoping for a quick turnaround on this proposal. They’ve asked council to fast track their application process. Council has not officially done so, but it’s clear the municipal government is looking favourably on the idea.
And it appears the public, too, is OK with the plan — if one judges solely by the low number of people rasing concerns about views and suitability of the downtown location.
As Mayor Steve Price told the PNR recently, it’s time the community walk the walk when it comes to housing that regular working people can afford.
It’s no secret that many employees in the West Sidney Industrial Park and in retail locations in town, do not live close by. Many, in fact, live on the Westshore. Demand for more affordable housing — not necessarily subsidized housing — has been on the table for years.
While the Town is considering a subsidy in the form of dropping development fees and 10 years’ worth of residential taxes, it appears the community is OK with that, as long as it has the desired result — making homes for young workers and new families, adding diversity to a town that needs to see an uptick in its residents.
That, in turn, should be a big step forward in building up the base of resident consumers to support Sidney’s existing businesses.