Saanich Coun. Zac de Vries checks in on the new student housing development on the University of Victoria campus. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)

Saanich Coun. Zac de Vries checks in on the new student housing development on the University of Victoria campus. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)

Saanich task force proposes more than 70 recommendations to address housing crisis

Housing Strategy task force report comes to council March 22

Saanich’s task force charged with addressing the housing crisis has submitted its final report, complete with more than 70 recommendations for developing a district-wide action plan.

On March 22, council will receive the Housing Strategy task force’s final report and residents will be invited to weigh in.

The task force began tackling Saanich’s housing crisis in September 2020 and, after 13 meetings, concluded their work on Feb. 25. Over the course of six months, the task force’s 16 members, council representatives, municipal staff and facilitators met virtually due to COVID-19 to develop housing solutions.

The result was a document that included 74 recommendations and a series of principles to guide council in the quest to bring affordable housing to Saanich, explained Coun. Zac de Vries, chair of the task force.

For him, no one aspect of the report stands out because he feels “it’s a very collaborative and thoughtful approach to housing” that’s going to be successful.

The recommendations span all aspects of delivering affordable housing – from considering using Saanich’s own properties for supportive housing and reviewing parking requirements, to developing zoning that includes and encourages “missing-middle,” family-friendly housing, he explained.

Saanich neighbourhoods are in need of middle-class housing – whether that be duplexes, townhouses or walk-ups – and that needs to be a priority going forward to provide a greater diversity and supply of housing, de Vries said.

He added that the task force also recommends the Official Community Plan be amended to align with the new Housing Strategy once it’s developed to enable the identified solutions – many of which were inspired by other municipalities around the world.

Because of the task force’s diverse makeup and long deliberations, de Vries isn’t worried that any recommendations will be a surprise to residents. He noted that implementation of any solutions will require public engagement to ensure residents are comfortable.

De Vries added that this report is the beginning of the development of Saanich’s Housing Strategy. Residents and council will be able to weigh in on March 22, then the report will be sent to a public survey, he said, noting that he hopes to see widespread participation.

“We don’t want to see Saanich shaped by any one group and so we look forward to hearing the views of all Saanich residents,” he said.

Once the survey concludes, staff will use the task force’s report and the public’s input to develop the final Housing Strategy which will come to council in June and be followed by further public input.

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