Friday November 17, 2023 | SOOKE, BC [Updated 11:40 am]
Socioeconomic analysis by Mary P Brooke | Island Social Trends
The growing Sooke community is one Vancouver Island municipality where more housing growth has always been a welcome concept.
Since 2007 many urban folks have been migrating there from other parts of Greater Victoria as well as from western Canada and beyond.
The natural landscapes and slower lifestyle away from the core urban areas has been appealing for many.
More housing supply is urgently needed in many BC communities. The BC government has been addressing the housing supply shortage quite distinctly this fall, with five pieces of legislation that are aimed at boosting supply while being cognisant of the pieces that must fall into place along the way, such as infrastructure in support of increasing the local population in any given area.
New BC legislation will soon allow for the construction of multiplex (duplex, triplex, four-plex) buildings on lots that are/were zoned for single-family dwellings. This sill change the landscape of towns and cities across the province, as the race to keep up with supply continues. The BC population increased by 250,000 in the last two years, with another 50,000 expected to wrap that up as a 300,000 three-year total.
Robust development in Sooke already:
Timing is good for Sooke. Currently there are, in total, about 575 units under development by a number of developers and builders. Projects are presently underway on Drennan and Charters (245 rental units), Otter Point Road (77 rental units), 54 single-family homes and 77 townhomes on Wadams Way, seven townhomes on Townsend Road, 29 townhomes on Galaxie Drive, and an assortment of other smaller projects combining to 53 single family dwellings (24 with suites), some two-unit (duplex structures), and some secondary suites.
The most recent population Census (2021) shows a population growth rate of 4% in Sooke (compared to a 2.9% on average for the area). Population increases were 3.9% in 2019 and 2016, and 2.6% in 2020, according to stats from the District of Sooke.
As of 2021, there were 15,086 people in Sooke (up from about 10,000 in 2008) — living in 6,400 private dwellings in Sooke; the new 575 units will equate to a 9% increase in private dwellings. If all that housing is built as planned, the housing increase will be at a rate of 4.57% (higher than the greatest population growth year in the last decade).
Even more building permits will come along to add further availability of housing and rental options to the Sooke community.
The average dwelling has 2.4 occupants (2021), so the 575 boost equates to housing for an estimated 1,380 persons (9.15% growth).
Due to the cost of living, it has been found in some communities that multiplex housing may carry a higher number of occupants than would normally be expected. That was certainly the case in Langford in recent years, when the region’s school district considerably underestimated their incoming next-year student population by not clearly seeing the shifts in demographic trends brought on by the burdens of rthe apidly increasing cost of living.
Confluence with provincial legislation to boost housing supply:
The Sooke openness to housing growth dovetails well with the suite of new housing legislation that will help developers and builders around the province bring more housing units to market, more quickly.
Council does seem open to addressing the range of housing needs for their population (many of which are low-to-moderate income) and seems aware of considering environmental and density impacts.
Yesterday the BC Housing ministry announced that some pre-designed multiplex building plans will be available to developers and builders by summer 2024. This will help developers and builders reduce their architectural design costs, and speed up the start and momentum of housing projects, which suits the Sooke development landscape.
Growth challenges in Sooke:
The primary challenges to Sooke growing even faster than it already is the one-road-in, one-road-out (Highway 14) that the community relies on for connection with the rest of Greater Victoria.
Slow expansion of the sewer system in some parts of town has also presented development challenges — a good example of how infrastructure must keep up with housing/population growth.
There have also been sociocultural challenges over the years… the phenomenon of ‘old Sooke, new Sooke’ was evident starting around the first influx of people seeking lower housing prices compared to the big city. Publications like MapleLine Magazine (editor Mary P Brooke, 2008-2010) arose to explore that trend and support the shift to become a more urbanized community.
Despite the many efforts to improve the sustainability of small business in Sooke, that challenge still remains in some sectors of the economic and retail service profile. In recent years, improvements have been in terms of health-service delivery, thanks largely to local organizations working collaboratively with doctors, Island Health, and BC Health; but during the first growth phase of 2007-2017, that was an impediment to attracting retirees to the region.
- Saanich is up to the task of building more homes quickly, says Mayor (Opinion-Editorial – November 13, 2023)
- Housing legislation takes affordability into account, says Minister Kahlon (November 10, 2023)
- Smart combo: more housing near transit hubs (November 8, 2023)
- Pushback on housing legislation over cost impacts, municipal load, development chill (debate by the Opposition, Nov 9, 2023)
- BC legislation to streamline delivery of homes, services, infrastructure (November 7, 2023)
- Hoped-for housing explosion based on multi-unit zoning (November 2, 2023)
- Clamping down on short-term rentals to free up housing stock (October 16, 2023)
- BC Legislature Fall 2023 session: housing, emergency management, crime, international credentialing, reconciliation (October 1, 2023)
- BC housing initiatives announced twice this week (September 29, 2023)
===== ABOUT THE WRITER:
Journalist, editor and publisher Mary P Brooke has been writing about Sooke and the west shore since 2008.
Her local news publications have been: MapleLine Magazine (2008-2010), the weekly print newspaper Sooke Voice News (2011-2013), the weekly print/PDF newspaper West Shore Voice News News (2014-2020), and now the full online Island Social Trends (2020 to present) at IslandSocialTrends.ca. The print publications from 2008 through 2020 are permanently archived at the Sooke Region Museum.
Ms Brooke takes a socioeconomic analysis approach to the news, as a service to readers to have more background on the things that impact our lives — whether that’s households, businesses, communities, organizations, industry sectors, or governments.
Mary P Brooke reports with the BC Legislative Press Gallery. She has lived in Oak Bay, Fairfield, Sooke and now Langford where — in addition to her journalism projects — she engages with the community about urban food resilience. Mary is the mother of four now-grown children who have a range of exciting careers.