Wednesday November 24, 2021 | LANGFORD, BC [Updated 4:45 pm & on November 26, 2021]
by Mary P Brooke, Editor | Island Social Trends
Municipalities are the key to kickstarting and mobilizing an increase in housing supply across Canada. It’s at the municipal level that zoning and decision-making for housing types is set, and it’s municipalities that can — with federal and provincial funding partnerships — help mobilize local developers to get rolling on construction.
Today NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh will be speaking with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) board and executive on these and other matters.
On the housing file, Singh will be discussing zoning and how FCM might organize to get more funding from other levels of government. The interface with FCM today will also include seeing how municipalities can develop infrastructure in their communities to help with climate crisis resilience.
Today during Question Period, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau reiterated some of yesterday’s Throne Speech items about addressing housing, such as helping first-time home buyers (by paying their closing costs) and working on a rent-to-own program.
Municipal housing on south Vancouver Island:
Locally here on Vancouver Island, on the west shore, various approaches are being taken by municipalities. Most municipalities are trying to build more housing considered affordable.
There is direction offered by the Capital Regional District (CRD) through their Capital Region Housing Corporation Board on which mayors and directors of the 13 municipalities in the Greater Victoria region sit.
Oftentimes that means reducing lot size (for single-family and townhomes) and increasing density (with taller buildings, and purpose-built affordable condo or apartment units).
- The City of Langford has shown leadership in housing development by reducing the amount of red tape for issuing building permits as a way to fast-track housing developments, and pursuing more developments that take advantage of residential building heights up to as much as 24-storeys (allowed within the Official Community Plan for the downtown core area).
- The upcoming Tallwood 1 rental apartment building is 11 storeys high.
- Other buildings recently approved by city council will be 18- and 24-storeys high. Community concerns usually include impacts on traffic loads on local roads and sometimes the shadow-effect of taller buildings.
- Langford has also come up with an Attainable Home Ownership Program targeted at getting renters into condos. The popular program is accepting names of interested participants. Developers who bring new condos online are advised of qualified renters who might be ready to get into ownership of a strata unit. Mortgage brokers are actively involved as well.
- The City of Colwood has actively worked closely with major developments like Royal Bay and Royal Beach as part of building the residential stock along with commercial services as well as child care and a long-term care centre coming to the Royal Bay development. These are new communities, from the ground up. Colwood actively pays attention to environmental aspects of the municipality.
- On the affordable housing side: For every housing unit a built in Colwood, developers contribute an amount to the City’s affordable housing reserve fund. Colwood Council then makes decisions about how to allocate those funds. | Recent examples of projects where the City contributed funds include Greater Victoria Housing Society’s proposed redevelopment of 85 Belmont Road, Pacifica Housing’s Helios apartments at 2006 Sooke Road and Greater Victoria Housing Society’s apartments at 330 Goldstream Avenue. https://www.colwood.ca/news-events/news/2021-02-26-000000/colwood-supports-additional-housing-people-range-incomes
- On the infrastructure side: Colwood recently received a UBCM award for the forward thinking Sustainable Infrastructure Replacement Plan, which sets budget aside now for the future repair and replacement of aging infrastructure. https://www.colwood.ca/discover-colwood/faces-places/new-award-winning-sustainable-infrastructure-replacement-plan | The City also maximizes grant opportunities by planning ahead and having shovel ready plans to submit as opportunities arise. | Most recently, the City was successful in earning grants for the Painter and Metchosin Road sidewalk and cycling improvements. Another example is grant received for safety improvements to the dam at Lookout Lake to protect life safety downstream in the event of a large scale earthquake. | And results are expected about the City’s application for grant funding to build a pedestrian and cycling bridge for a safe crossing of the Galloping Goose Regional Trail over Sooke Road at Wale Road. https://www.colwood.ca/news-events/news/2020-10-28-000000/overpass-galloping-goose-colwood-exploring-grant-opportunities
- The Town of View Royal is keen to invite high-density housing development, with careful analysis of projects as they come along. The population is presently almost 12,000 but Mayor David Screech expects population to continuing increasing; 1,000 units were brought into development just last year. Land development includes a broad range of policy, regulatory and program initiatives including:
- community and town-wide land use planning
- urban design
- planning applications including zoning, development and variance permits
- demographic and other planning information services
- permitting and inspections services
- land subdivision
- road, boulevard, sidewalk and bicycle lane construction
- water, drainage and sewer servicing
- District of Sooke – info to come.
Infrastructure for climate resilience:
The NDP’s discussions today with FCM will include seeing how municipalities can develop infrastructure in their communities to help with climate crisis resilience.
“We really want to emphasize with the FCM is the need to invest directly – federal government’s investment in building the infrastructure necessary for communities to be more resilient,” said Singh today.
“So knowing that there’s going to be increased flooding, having the roads and appropriate infrastructure for dealing with increased water flow and river flow so that there aren’t the same impacts of flooding. As well as looking at infrastructure investments to prevent the impacts of forest fires. These are things that we need to build, it creates jobs, and it also helps to build more resilient communities,” the NDP leader told Island Social Trends today.
There was active flooding in Langford and Sooke last week as a result of significant rainfall, and power outages across the Greater Victoria area on November 15 due to winds and saturated ground contributing to impacts on BC Hydro lines and equipment.