The four and five-storey buildings would be on a hill, and the developers say they will only be a metre higher than the surrounding townhomes.                                 (Stride Properties)

The four and five-storey buildings would be on a hill, and the developers say they will only be a metre higher than the surrounding townhomes. (Stride Properties)

Affordable housing development leaves neighbours concerned

A 90-unit proposal on Prosser Rd. is before Central Saanich council

A two-building complex of market rentals and affordable housing might be built on the corner of Prosser and East Saanich roads, steps from Legion Manor. Central Saanich council has not yet voted to send the project for a public hearing, so there are several more steps before the fate of the project is decided.

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.

The project proponent is asking for a series of variances, notably reducing the amount of parking from the 158 as required by the local Land Use Bylaw. They propose 104 spots (one per unit and 14 visitor spaces). They say parking needs in affordable housing developments are lower than market housing and given its proximity to a bus stop and the Saanichton core (0.7 km), staff and the developers feel parking is adequate.

They intend to reduce car use by adding 50 lifetime car share memberships for the rental building, and five lifetime car share memberships for the affordable housing building. They originally intended to have 15 car shares total, but after a motion by Coun. Zeb King, they agreed to increase their car share memberships to 55 total, which brings Central Saanich up to 100 Modo car share memberships. Modo has agreed to permanently place some Modo cars within Central Saanich, increasing the viability of that car share program.

At a special committee of the whole meeting on Thursday, April 19, neighbours expressed concerns the building was too high and that an increase of cars would overwhelm their community and more residents would impact the transit system. Various neighbours approached the microphone, many of whom expressed some support for the Greater Victoria Housing Society and rental housing, but preferred townhomes instead.

“Where’s a happy medium between the resident needs and keeping a rural aesthetic feel? It’s really quite that simple,” asked one resident.

While the surrounding buildings are mostly single-family homes, the overall height of the five-storey unit would only be one-metre higher than the surrounding townhouses. The site is on a hill, so the applicants plan to dig down and regrade the site to minimize its visual imposition on the community.

When Coun. Bob Thompson asked the proponents what would happen if the project was scaled back, both Matt Peulen of Stride Properties and James Munro of the Greater Victoria Housing Society said it would be less viable.

Coun. Carl Jensen said he wanted the development to move towards a public hearing. The development is located 0.7 km from the Saanichton core and in his view, it could still be considered part of it.

“If we want to preserve the farmland, if we want to give ourselves the greatest chance for the food security that we talk about, the rural beauty of the community, then we have to make some hard choices within the urban containment boundaries,” said Jensen.

In an follow-up interview, Mayor Ryan Windsor said if BC Transit notices more riders on a particular route, they would look at increasing service to meet the demand.

The topic will be considered again on May 7.