Shift in plans leaves Townley residents in limbo

Residents anxious over concerns affordable housing complex for seniors could be sold

Veronica Green says she cannot understand why council delayed the public hearing for plans to redevelop Townley Lodge in light of what she calls the area’s “housing crisis.”

Veronica Green says she cannot understand why council delayed the public hearing for plans to redevelop Townley Lodge in light of what she calls the area’s “housing crisis.”

Veronica Green is having a quiet Thursday afternoon in her Townley Lodge apartment, a small but efficient space.

Personal mementos and pictures of her three children surround her as she sits cross-legged on her bed.

But Green’s serene appearance belies a state of mind that swings between anger and anxiety as the fate of Townley Lodge hangs in the balance.

Greater Victoria Housing and Society (GVHS), the non-profit society that has owned and operated the affordable housing complex for seniors since 1967, might put it up for sale after Saanich council put the brakes on GVHS’ plans to redevelop the site following input from area residents.

“I’m disgusted with council,” said Green.

She says Greater Victoria is currently in the middle of a “housing crisis” and council’s refusal to grant the GVHS’ proposal a public hearing is “unconscionable” in light of support from staff and a funding deadline for the project.

GVHS executive director Kaye Melliship said earlier this month that council’s postponement of a public hearing means the project will not be able to go ahead as planned under a funding deadline.

It requires the society to submit several documents by the middle of next year to secure $6.2 million in funds from the federal government administered by the provincial government.

Green acknowledged that GVHS could re-submit a revised proposal that could earn the support of concerned residents. But she added that council should have known better than to postpone a public hearing at this stage, because it essentially meant the end of the project as presented and denies Saanich as well as the Greater Victoria area $6 million for affordable housing.

“It blows my mind, it totally does, just because council is siding with a few neighbours, basically,” she said.

Residents opposed to the redevelopment said last month that they did not oppose affordable housing per se. Rather, they argued that the proposal as presented would have undermined the character of their largely single-residential neighbourhood in violation of local area plans, depressed property values and diminished their quality of life.

Of particular concern were plans for an apartment building that would have been four storeys tall.

Opponents have since said they could live with a three-storey building that included other changes to offset its visual impact.

Green did not buy their concerns. “I think it [the building] was perfect,” she said. “Everything about it is so well-thought out. It is not like they are slapping up a Blanshard Courts here.”

Green is not sure what will happen next as the GVHS considers its options.

While the idea of moving hardly thrills Green, the prospect of packing up is not the worst of the current situation.

What concerns Green more is the “uncertainty” and “rumours” that currently swirl around the eventual fate of Townley Lodge, which has become the dominant subject of discussion, every time residents come together.

“Anytime, we get together for tea in the lounge, no matter what we start talking about, the conversation…is always turning to what’s happening,” she said.

Green said she has no idea right now where she will end up, but she has options, because she knows a few people who she might be able to stay with.

 

“I’m not worried about finding a place,” she says. “There are neighbours who are, they are very worried about it.”