An affordable housing proposal has some neighbours concerned about extra cars and building heights, but Kaye Melliship, executive director of the Greater Victoria Housing Society, said the slope of the site and the nearby bus route takes care of some of those concerns. (Stride Properties)

Affordable housing and rental building approved for Central Saanich

90-unit proposal awaiting government funding

A two-building proposal for 1909 Prosser Road has been approved by Central Saanich council. The project, which includes 40 units of affordable rental housing and 50 market rental units, passed several major hurdles, including amendments to the Land Use Bylaw and Official Community Plan on a 5-1 vote.

The market rental building on the northern portion, owned and operated by Stride Properties, would be a 50-unit, four-storey building made up of studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom units.

The affordable housing building on the southern portion, owned and operated by the Greater Victoria Housing Society, would be a 40-unit, five-storey building with two-storey townhouse-style units on the bottom suitable for families and a mix of studio and one-bedroom units on the top three floors.

“We’re really pleased, obviously, and appreciate it was not an easy decision for council,” said Kaye Melliship, executive director of the Greater Victoria Housing Society. “There’s such a need in the community that in the end, the community will be really pleased with the addition of these units.”

Melliship commended the councillors on their comments, both for and against. “They were really very thoughtful.”

RELATED: Fate unclear for Central Saanich development

At the August 20 meeting of Central Saanich council, Councillor Carl Jensen said he supported the project because according to an Affordable Housing Needs Assessment Report, one in three households (not just one-in-three individuals) earn less than $49,999, and those households would benefit from housing like this. He said while the proposal would not solve the entire affordable housing supply shortage in Central Saanich, it would bring them closer.

“By approving this project and increasing the volume of low income housing supply on the Peninsula we are committing to being a more inclusive community, and that is a Central Saanich that I am proud to call home” said Jensen.

Coun. Bob Thompson said the project was challenging, and he recognized concerns from neighbours about height and traffic issues, but he said he would also support it.

Coun. Alicia Holman commended the proponents and said Central Saanich has had positive relationships with them in the past. However, she opposed the project because she felt council missed other opportunities for affordable housing in projects that could have been denser, “then [I] don’t believe we would be asking the community, particularly the neighbours, to change the social contract that I believe that our OCP sets out.”

Coun. Chris Graham said he was also supportive, saying the development had good park and transit access, and was within walking distance to the Saanichton core.

Coun. Niall Paltiel addressed concerns that this decision would set a precedent regarding large buildings in residential neighbourhoods, saying each decision is made based on the merits of the application.

“Just because we’re approving this here doesn’t mean we’ll approve it on any other property within the municipality,” said Paltiel.

“I think that this is an opportunity to bring some diversity and some different socioeconomic backgrounds to the community,” said Paltiel, who said he grew up near the development. “I know that we’re a community that steps up to do our part when it matters, and with housing the way it is with families, this is something that matters and I know that our community is willing to step up.”

Melliship said there is still work to do, including securing federal or provincial government funding. Construction cannot begin until that happens, but they could not apply for funding without securing the approval of zoning from the local government, which they now have.

The deadline for provincial funding is in mid-September, which she said they will “definitely” apply for. She said the province is slated to announce the successful grant applicants in November, but in case of unforeseen government delays, they anticipate hearing back in early 2019.

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