North Saanich has received a report from the Urban Development Institute calling on the municipality to expand and densify its housing options in the face of demographic and environmental changes as the municipality continues its Official Community Plan review. (Black Press Media file photo)

North Saanich has received a report from the Urban Development Institute calling on the municipality to expand and densify its housing options in the face of demographic and environmental changes as the municipality continues its Official Community Plan review. (Black Press Media file photo)

North Saanich asked to create more affordable, diverse housing

Urban Development Institute says community faces demographic, environmental challenges

The self-described voice of the development industry in Greater Victoria is calling on North Saanich to expand and densify its housing options in the face of demographic and environmental changes as the municipality continues its Official Community Plan review.

The report prepared by the Urban Development Institute (UDI) said North Saanich faces a “significant shift in housing needs” over the next 10 years as its population ages. Yet the community does not offer seniors many options for downsizing or accessing supportive housing, forcing them to move to Sidney or the urban areas of Saanich, Victoria or the West Shore. “Leaving social networks and families at this life stage is a proven threat to long term health and well-being,” it reads.

The UDI also calls on North Saanich to offer more affordable housing. “For North Saanich to remain a vibrant community, it needs all ages and a diversity of incomes and that requires a much greater diversity of housing than it has today,” it reads.

While familiar demands, the report also offers a broader critique of the Regional Growth Strategy.

RELATED: North Saanich unaffordable for most households with children

“The Regional Growth Strategy (RGS) has placed North Saanich outside the growth boundary and allocated little growth to the community,” it reads. “That approach sounds fine initially, until we realize that it means that North Saanich will not be able to provide housing diversity and that most of those who work in North Saanich will have to live in the more affordable areas of the region – frequently the West Shore – thereby creating major traffic and climate emissions challenges, health challenges, economic challenges and many more.”

Looking at remedies, the report argues North Saanich can meet its future housing targets and retain its rural character if it selects strategic areas for new multi-family and seniors housing and link them with complete, mixed-use village areas near transit nodes.

RELATED: Habitat for Humanity provides six families with place to call home in North Saanich

This approach would impact only a few areas across the community, permitting the rest of the landscape to retain its rural and agricultural nature.

Creating mixed-use village areas with a diversity of housing near transit nodes also offers environmental benefits by reducing daily car use. “With nearly half of its (greenhouse gas) emissions coming from vehicles, North Saanich will not be able to achieve its GHG reduction targets of 61 per cent below 2007 levels by 2038 without fundamentally changing its land use structure to require less automobile use for daily needs,” it reads. “And it takes a long time to change land use patterns, and as such, action in this OCP will be required.”

RELATED: Former North Saanich mayor questions substance and process of OCP review

RELATED: LETTER: Get developers out of the OCP process in North Saanich

The UDI marks the latest high profile entry into the debate of North Saanich’s future character. Former mayor Alice Finall has been critical of the process and substance of the OCP review, expressing concerns about the lack of transparency and fearing the undue influence of developers.

Rebecca Penz, North Saanich’s manager of communications and engagement, said the District welcomes feedback from any stakeholders wishing to contribute to the development of the Official Community Plan (OCP).

“The feedback from the Urban Development Institute will be considered as part of the current phase of engagement,” she said.

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