Saanich councillor supports proposed housing development

Plans to increase the supply of student housing receive the thumbs-up from the chair of Saanich’s planning, transportation and economic development advisory committee.

Coun. Judy Brownoff said plans by the University of Victoria to build student housing in a partnership with a private developer in Downtown Victoria will benefit the region as a whole. But it may also bear additional burdens.

“I would say this project would be a positive for the region (depending on rental fees),” said Brownoff. “Although, if these students would be attending the UVIC campus in Gordon Head, then transit investment might need to be enhanced or I could see more cars travelling to campus.”

Rental accommodations in Saanich for students going to UVIC is not a detriment for the community, especially when they can bike, walk or take transit, said Brownoff. “This means less cars going to campus.”

News of the announcement comes against the backdrop of UVic having raised its on-campus student housing fees by 13 per cent effective last September and an on-going shortage of off-campus housing as evident by a low vacancy rate and correspondingly high rents.

So how might this development affect rental rates? Brownoff warns against high expectations. “So I do not think this will have any impact on rental rates,” said Brownoff, in pointing to various factors. This said, it is marks a step in the right direction, as Saanich and Victoria bring more rental housing online.

Brownoff made these comments after UVic Properties announced a partnership with Chard Development Ltd. to redevelop the Broad Street properties, a collection of revenue real estate holdings that the University of Victoria owns downtown.

“UVic Properties is pleased to be working with Chard Development for the Broad Street properties,” said Peter Kuran, president of UVic Properties, in a release. “This proposal is intended to provide housing downtown, including for UVic students, increase UVic’s downtown real estate investments, as well as enhance the future returns of a donation that was intended to provide ongoing financial support to UVic.”

The properties are located a 1312 Broad Street, a parking lot, 1314 Broad Street, the historic three-storey Duck’s Building, as well as 1324 Broad Street and 615-625 Johnston Street, a two-storey commercial annex building.

The Broad Street properties are part of a donation to UVic from the late developer, philanthropist and arts lover Michael Williams to provide the university with long-term financial returns to support its academic mission.

The proposal calls for Chard to build a 52-unit market residential rental complex on the parking lot property, which UVic will retain. To help address, a shortage of on-campus housing, UVic students would receive preference to rent the units.