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Letter: Innovative policy needed to tackle housing crisis

Use former Mayfair Lanes lot to host modular housing for homeless
The Loblaws-owned vacant lot, a once-proposed Great Canadian Superstore, reminds passersby of the former Mayfair Lanes bowling alley in the heart of Saanich’s thriving commercial and retail district next to Mayfair Shopping Centre and Island Home Centre. File photo

Saanich Council has struggled to present viable solutions to the ongoing housing crisis here in Saanich, as evidenced by the growing tent city in Regina Park. Provincial funding is available, to the tune of $90 million, through a program that offers supportive, modular housing to municipalities that provide the land.

These rapidly built modular homes offer a quick response, while longer-term solutions to housing are developed. Other municipalities, like Vancouver and Surrey, have jumped at the opportunity and within just a few months time, people who were living on the streets are now in stable homes. Saanich, on the other hand, has failed to identify any municipal land that could serve this purpose.

There are plenty of options available, if council were willing to think outside of the box. One approach could be to partner with private landowners whose land currently sits empty and has been empty for a long period of time. Temporary modular housing could be installed on these properties while planning for developments continues. What developer wouldn’t want to see their otherwise empty land going to fight the housing crisis while they plan their next project?

And there is plenty of land sitting vacant in Saanich.

Take for example the lot at 760 Tolmie. This 13,670 square-metre lot has sat empty since 2006, when its owner, Loblaw Companies, demolished the Mayfair Lanes 10-pin bowling alley. This property has been vacant for over 12 years and could easily accommodate a modular housing complex, along with a temporary urban farm, and more.

We are currently faced by a housing crisis, not a housing inconvenience. The only way to begin to address this crisis is not to simply move people along, but to provide stable housing for them. The time for innovative action is upon us, will Saanich council step up?

Teale Phelps Bondaroff