The City of Victoria is beginning its consultation process on a blanketing zoning change that is being met with conflicting opinions.
Residential Rental Tenure Zoning (RRTZ) was introduced in B.C. in 2018, and would allow a municipality to enact zones for rental housing. This would require all new housing in the area to be developed as rental units, and ensure that existing rental housing areas are preserved.
RRTZ is currently being applied to new purpose-built projects, but now the city is now looking at what it would mean to apply it to existing properties.
While the intention would be to serve the 61 per cent of Victoria residents who rent, landlords feel that the sweeping rezoning changes could have negative effects on investments. Primarily, there is a fear that downgrading the property zone could decrease property value, making it more difficult to continue upgrading the building.
“Let there be no doubt that there are unintended consequences should you elect to apply Residential Rental Tenure Zoning to existing buildings without consent of the owners,” said David Hutniak, CEO of LandlordBC in a letter to council. “The down-zoning will have immediate negative financial impacts on these owners and will go well-beyond their freezing all but the most basic investment in the existing rental stock.”
Coun. Geoff Young was opposed to the blanket option.
“By putting these very strict requirements in the form of the tenure of the new kinds of development, I think we may well be foreclosing options for new development and making it less likely,” he said.
Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps, however was for more rental policies, calling homeowner aspirations “outdated.”
“We are going to need this amount of rental housing in the city in perpetuity without question,” Helps said. “I don’t doubt that. So from that point of view alone, this is a sound direction to go.”
Council questioned whether financial support for upgrades would be available to landowners if the property value dropped following rezoning. Staff reported that this and other questions have been forwarded to the University of British Columbia for an economic impact study.
The RRTZ process is currently being reviewed, and will be put forward for public engagement in September.
In November, the public feedback will be brought to council in a phased approach, seeking to address a smaller chunk of the 500 existing rental properties at a time. Staff plan on applying the bylaw to older units first, as they are more likely to need redevelopment.
Before anything can be enacted the bylaws will need to be brought forward to a public hearing at a yet-to-be-determined date.
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