Skip to content

Saanich short of meeting provincial housing targets

Progress report says district close on overall targets, but far behind on rentals
Saanich looks to be coming up a bit short in meeting provincial housing targets, according to the first progress report. (Christine van Reeuwyk/News Staff)

The District of Saanich has completed its first progress report towards meeting new provincial housing targets and while they’re close on the overall number of housing units built, they’re much farther behind in the sub-categories: affordable housing and rental housing.

“Knowing that the development cycle takes time, we anticipate that the initial years will be challenging, particularly on the affordable/supportive housing side,” said an emailed statement from a district spokesperson.

Saanich was one of the first 10 municipalities to receive a housing target order from the province in a program that went into effect on Oct. 1, 2023 to encourage the building of more homes. Municipalities were chosen based on housing need and projected growth. The program was recently expanded and now includes a total of 30 communities.

The targets start small, but get progressively larger over the course of five years.

Overall, Saanich is supposed to add 440 completed units over the first year, which ends this coming October. This progress report includes data for the first six months, showing that with 35 demolished homes taken into account, there has been a net gain of 195 housing units in the district as of March 31.

By the end of year five, Saanich is supposed to have built 4,610 new units, with 2,495 of those being rental units. Of the total rental units, 1,161 are supposed to be below-market rate offerings.

So far, after six months only 29 new rental units have been built and none of them are below-market rate units.

Still, Mayor Dean Murdock said he does think the district will be able to reach the first-year targets by October.

“I think overall for the first six months we’re trending towards achieving that target,” he told Black Press Media on Friday, April 26.

The statement from the district spokesperson said there are a number of housing projects in development that should help to improve numbers.

“We are aware of projects that are nearing occupancy and anticipate that our October numbers will be closer to the target,” the statement said. “Over the five-year target cycle, we anticipate uneven results as the projects that are reaching occupancy now were started many years ago.”

Murdock said the district is doing what it can to spur development, adding that building takes time and local government can only do so much.

“We’re pulling all of the levers we can,” Murdock said. “But of course, it takes time for construction to actually get started, there are a lot of activities that fall outside of what municipality can control that also delay those start dates.”

Murdock highlighted projects such as an 119-unit non-market rental housing complex council approved for development back in February as an example of the district working toward meeting the affordable rental targets. This project still needs to pass through a couple more hoops though, so it is not reflected in the numbers just yet.

“Council has taken that as far as they can, or as far as we can, to get that moving quickly,” he said. “But of course, that will then need to move from development permit to building permit to construction.”

Saanich Coun. Colin Plant said he thinks it is important not to rush these things, but that more is coming.

“Saanich is being very careful with what we approve,” he said. “We know we’re going to do more.”

What worried him is what the province is doing to improve services such as schools when Saanich increases housing and therefore grows its population.

“I haven’t seen any details yet of how the province will respond to the additional needs as a result of these housing targets,” he said.

READ MORE: Greater Victoria municipalities feel confident in meeting housing targets

About the Author: Mark Page

Read more