Opposition deals blow to affordable housing

Saanich council must work to mitigate concerns over proposed affordable housing project

The Greater Victoria Housing Society has been a guiding force in providing affordable housing options to residents on the South Island. But that guiding force may have run into an immovable object in its plans to bring more affordable housing to Saanich.

Saanich council voted unanimously last week to postpone a public hearing on the redevelopment of Townley Lodge after more than a dozen nearby residents spoke against the project during a public input session. The opposition has left the society questioning whether the project will move forward at all.

Townley Lodge currently provides low-income housing for seniors in the area south of Lansdowne middle school. The GVHS is proposing an $18 million redevelopment of the building that would replace the current 39 rental units with 67 affordable housing units for seniors and other segments of the population. Most of the project’s opponents were upset with the height of the four-storey building that would be constructed, expressing concerns with increased density and declining property values.

Affordable housing is reaching crisis proportions in this province. Finding a solution will not be easy, and won’t come without some controversies. While council cannot ignore the concerns raised by neighbouring residents, it must find a way to mitigate any changes brought by the project while encouraging groups like the Greater Victoria Housing Society to continue their needed work.

The GVHS has been around for 60 years, providing 800 units of subsidized and low-income housing in the Capital Region. Without the work of groups like the GVHS, the problems facing local governments on the issue of affordable housing will only get worse.

As Coun. Colin Plant told the GVHS at the end of last week’s meeting: “Please, don’t give up on affordable housing in Saanich. We want you to be here.”

Hopefully, council’s actions can live up to  Coun. Plant’s words.