Victoria will now allow smaller multi-unit homes in most of the city where zoning has excluded anything but single-family homes for more than 40 years.
The city’s missing middle housing proposal was adopted at Thursday’s (Jan. 26) council meeting. The initiative’s main goal is to boost the supply of family-suitable, ground-oriented homes that fall between single-family dwellings and larger apartments.
Victoria’s approved proposal amends zoning on lots that currently only allow single-family homes to also permit corner townhomes, houseplexes and some infill housing on heritage-worthy properties to be built. The city has called the initiative one tool in its 40-part housing strategy.
The proposal has specific character and design guidelines – aiming to make projects fit neighbourhoods, promote livability and ensure accessibility – that builders must follow in order to be eligible.
More than two and half years of public consultation went into drafting the policy, which was heavily debated for months by the previous council. That culminated in a 12-hour public hearing that had to be split into two dates in order to accommodate every person who wanted to offer their input.
That lengthy hearing saw a range of opinions with many locals split between those worried the policy would lead to drastic changes in their neighbourhoods and others who said it would be a gentle approach to creating housing that would help families stay in Victoria’s precarious market.
The policy will have an 18-month review that will include a new independent financial analysis and will consider adding more affordability requirements. Council will also receive a brief update after six months. With those updates coming, several councillors on Thursday said the city will keep an eye on how the policy is working and can make tweaks at any time.
Council approved an amendment to lower the allowable height of flat and peak-roofed missing middle projects, respectively, to eight and nine metres, which aimed to keep buildings to 2.5 storeys.
The proposal could’ve gone to a final vote in mid-2022, but the last council delayed a public hearing, added additional public information sessions on the proposal and ultimately passed the final say to the current council. Some councillors opposed felt the public process had been flawed while some in support said they were elected to vote on issues like this.
Couns. Marg Gardiner, Chris Coleman and Stephen Hammond voted against the initiative.
“Missing middle” measures have been popping up all over North America as communities face land-use and housing challenges after suburban sprawl outside city centres characterized 20th-century growth. Vancouver and Toronto are among the Canadian cities looking into similar changes for their low-density neighbourhoods.
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City of VictoriaHousing crisisVictoria