Saanich’s low-density housing a recipe for affordability crisis

Saanich’s housing stock is comprised of nearly 75 per cent single-family houses and duplexes

I couldn’t help but chuckle as I read Coun. Judy Brownoff’s letter in the Nov. 30 Saanich News. While her claim that “Saanich supports [a] variety of housing options” certainly sounds good, what she actually means is that Saanich council supports the creation of non-market “affordable” units, in areas where it is politically expedient (and if you don’t satisfy the latter requirement, you can expect the Townley Lodge proposal’s fate).

The rest of us, who either don’t qualify for “affordable” rentals or simply wish to buy their own residence in Saanich are left to the vagaries of the free market and what housing stock is available. And what a free market. Prices have crept steadily upwards over the past few years to the point where it’s hard to deny that we’re in the midst of a housing crisis. The MLS benchmark price for a single-family house in Saanich East for October was a whopping $783,000.

And according to the 2011 census, Saanich’s housing stock is comprised of nearly 75 per cent single-family houses and duplexes. Where in the past a young family could buy a starter home for a reasonable price, now the likely option for a young family in Saanich is a townhouse, and yet according to the 2011 census, townhouses made up only seven per cent of Saanich’s overall housing stock. Why is this?

Well the answer to that question is that Saanich’s land use policies are set up to keep it this way. Of the 10 Local Area Plans (LAPs) in Saanich that cover non-rural areas, every single one contains a policy with a variation on this theme: “Maintain single family housing as the principal form of development” (Gordon Head LAP, p.17).

What this type of policy is doing, in effect, is slowly creating a polarized community where the wealthy live in their detached houses, and the rest of the people either settle for the subsidized rental housing, apartments on busy arterial roads, or they simply leave town. Is this the future we want for this community?  Do we really want to take the “tough luck, but Langford’s that way” approach?

Saanich council needs to take a serious look at its existing land use policies, the role they play in making this community unaffordable for the average family, and to do it now. While non-market rentals are certainly part of the solution for one segment of the population, Saanich needs to recognize that it is no longer a suburb of Victoria, and keeping the majority of the community as low density single-family housing is a recipe for a Vancouver-style affordability crisis. Saanich needs to let its neighbourhoods evolve beyond single-family homes, and not just by taking the easy approach of putting apartments on busy arterial roads. A good start would be to allow townhouses to make up more than just seven per cent of our housing stock, and not relegate them to busy arterial streets where few will complain.

Corey Newcomb

Saanich

 

Just Posted

Victoria man finds out his song will be featured on American Idol after a rough morning

Mike Edel’s song ‘The Finish Line’ was featured on the hit show

West Shore RCMP, Search and Rescue, Langford Fire continue search for missing Langford man

31-year-old Joshua Bennett of Langford went missing on March 9

Saanich councillor questions why Victoria Mayor Helps would shut out public from amalgamation deliberations

Coun. Judy Brownoff says Saanich puts “high standard” on public engagement, openness and transparency.

Victoria-Saanich amalgamation discussions won’t be open to the public

The upcoming citizens’ assembly meetings will be held in camera

Red-tailed hawk’s own bill is killing him

‘Most birds with this syndrome will starve to death without treatment’

VIDEO: Can you believe it? This B.C. hill pulls cars backwards up a slope

Sir Isaac Newton had clearly never been to this Vernon anomaly when he discovered gravity

Greater Victoria Wanted List for the week of March 19

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

POLL: When do you think the next major earthquake will hit Vancouver Island?

According to seismologists, Vancouver Island is overdue for a magnitude 7 earthquake.… Continue reading

Paramedic staff shortage at critical level: B.C. union

A number of units were out of service due to lack of staffing in Lower Mainland, union says

B.C. lottery winner being sued by Surrey co-workers

They claim he owes them $200,000 each, in a lawsuit filed in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver

BIG READ: The two sides of the Strait of Georgia roe herring fishery

The case for the Strait of Georgia roe herring fishery Comox fisherman,… Continue reading

Fraser Health under fire again for taxiing homeless man from Langley to Hope

Patient sent to Hope shelter because a spot in the man’s home community couldn’t be located

Dead sea lion discovered on Hornby Island shoreline

Reports indicate animal was shot in the head

Celina Caesar-Chavannes quits Liberal caucus, sits as independent MP

The Whitby, Ont., MP has been a vocal supporter of Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott

Most Read