Saanich will soon allow developers to build small apartment buildings of up to three storeys on single-family lots through the creation of a new small-apartment zone.
Council unanimously endorsed a new small apartment (RA-1A) zone at its May 1 committee of the whole meeting – permitting small apartment infill projects, so long as those projects comply with the parameters recommended by district staff.
According to a staff report, lots will need to be 650 square metres in area at a minimum and will also have to be located along major transit routes, in addition to falling within centres, villages and corridors identified by the municipality.
Mayor Dean Murdock said the district’s new small apartment zone is on the high end of the missing middle infill spectrum, and possibly the most dense housing solution when considering building size and community impact.
“I think it will give us a great opportunity to expand available options for people to rent or buy in our community that have otherwise been missing from our zoning bylaw,” he said.
Murdock added that the new zone will create additional options for people who have largely been under-served when it comes to housing in Saanich, including students and young working families.
The expectation is that small apartment buildings can be constructed at a fraction of the cost of larger ones, which require expensive mechanical devices like elevators, or complex heating-ventilation and air-conditioning systems.
Coun. Colin Plant said endorsing the zone is a very safe step forward as any rezoning application would first require approval from council.
“Personally, I like the opportunity – when something fits the official community plan – to not necessarily hold a public hearing, especially if there isn’t a lot of public input. But on this, I think we would want to have a public hearing on the first one or two of these to make sure that it did fit,” said Plant.
“This is about providing options, and to be absolutely clear, this is allowing the public to bring it forward and then council will determine if it’s a good fit in a good location.”
The district’s endorsement of the new small apartment zone comes after B.C. Premier David Eby and Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon announced the province’s new Homes for People plan near a Victoria-area hardware store last month.
Although sparse in details, the plan includes adding density in areas currently zoned single-residential and near transit, legalizing secondary suites coupled with financial incentives for homeowners who build such suites, expanding the existing speculation and vacancy tax to other areas and creating a tax designed to discourage the flipping of properties.
It is also expected to create more than 108,000 new houses and apartment units throughout the province, open and under construction, by 2027-28.
“With that understanding that the province will be bringing in legislation – we’ll then be looking to provide some context for how that applies in Saanich,” said Murdock.
The district’s most recent Housing Needs Report indicates that more than 1,200 new bachelor and one-bedroom units are needed by 2025 to meet demand in Saanich.
–With files from Wolf Depner
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