View Royal Mayor David Screech. (Black Press News Media file photo)

Thetis housing project clouded by confusion

View Royal mayor clarifies details about Capital Region Housing Corporation project

There has been much discussion recently about a proposed 152-unit Capital Region Housing Corporation (CRHC) project on the site of the old Thetis Lake Campground. There is a lot of incorrect information out there and, I think, confusion over the issues. I will try to address some of these here.

The buildings are being built for the CRHC by a developer. The price for the contract is set by the CRD and is a fixed-price contract to deliver the two turnkey buildings. There will be 32 units at the provincial income assistance level, 44 units classified as affordable and 76 units that will be rented at the low end of market rates. There will also be 20 fully accessible units for those with physical handicaps. The CRHC is a non-profit corporation and people can rest assured that the rents will be as low as possible while still making sure the buildings are financially sustainable.

The CRHC is the largest non-profit housing provider in Greater Victoria with close to 1,700 units. CRHC complexes are well maintained and tenant satisfaction is consistently high. It is has been suggested that these new buildings will become a ghetto. All one has to do is look at the existing portfolio to know that will not be the case.

The proposed buildings will see a mix of tenants with different income levels and they will be run by a first-class operator; an operator of which View Royal is actually a shareholder. This project is not about the developer; it is about the CRHC, the future owner. Most importantly it is about the people, many of whom are marginalized, who will be provided with homes.

Some people question the location and suggest it is not suitable. This property has been through a thorough screening process that has included housing professionals with BC Housing, CMHC, CRHC, Island Health and more. The site is within 500 metres of a bus stop and transit has pledged to improve service in the area, likely before completion of the buildings. Shopping and services are minutes away. Thetis Lake and many miles of trails will be at the doorsteps.

What is the perfect location for affordable housing? I am sure many future residents would tell you that they would love to reside in a spot such as this. Do we presume that because of one’s financial situation they would prefer to live across from a mall? That is certainly an argument I have been hearing and one I have difficulty understanding. People will apply to live here. It will be their choice. With land costs being what they are in the region it is remarkable that the numbers work for this site. They don’t on more expensive parcels of land closer to the core or to services. And that is an important point. CRHC operates with no taxpayer subsidy. After the initial capital investments in these projects the buildings must be self-supporting. And these ones, in this location, will be.

The property was rezoned in 2017 to allow 350 units and what is proposed fits entirely within that zoning. I understand some people are just finding that out now and are angry about the rezoning. But the reality is that decision has been made. People have every right to be angry but please don’t oppose the affordable housing because you are angry the property is being developed. The property will be developed regardless.

Others are angry about traffic. I get that completely. Traffic is a huge issue for View Royal residents, especially when we have no control over so much of it that comes from the west. I would argue strongly that the traffic implications from the proposed development will actually be far less than from a full market rate development.

To me, the most important issue is the affordable and rental housing. Most will agree that our region is in the midst of a housing crisis. The rental vacancy rate has varied from 0.5 to 1.2 per cent over the last three years. Rents have skyrocketed, making it harder and harder for young people and people working in entry-level jobs to live here. In the long run that alone has huge implications for our economy and our society. There has been no affordable housing built in View Royal since pre-incorporation (1988). This is our opportunity to work with our partners across the region and ensure that housing run by non-profit agencies is available in our Town. In my view housing is the most pressing issue facing the region today and we must not let this opportunity slip away.

David Screech

View Royal Mayor

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