Housing Strategy

Improving Housing Affordability in Victoria!

 

Victoria's Housing Strategy, 2016 - 2025 is the City's plan for how to improve housing affordability over the next decade.

 

Victoria Housing: Did you know?

  • Victoria's population grew from 63,800 in 1981 to 85,300 in 2016
  • Victoria anticipates an additional 20,000 residents by 2041
  • 60% of Victoria households are rented (compared to 51% in Vancouver and 34% regionally)
  • The current vacancy rate in Victoria is 0.7% - one of the lowest in the country
  • Affordable housing means housing that costs no more than 30% of household income before tax
  • There are an estimated 1,500 homeless people in the Region
  • Victoria needs an additional 13,500 apartment units and 2,700 ground floor homes by 2041

Victoria Housing Strategy

Victoria is committed to improving housing affordability in the City.  The Victoria Housing Strategy contains 26 ambitious actions the City will be taking to do this, which fall under three main strategic directions:

  1. Increase Supply of housing for low to moderate income households

  2. Encourage Diversity of housing types, tenures, and prices across the city and within neighbourhoods

  3. Build Awareness and partnerships for affordable housing through communication, education and advocacy

Housing Strategy Initiatives

 

Inclusionary Housing

Council has directed staff to replace the existing Density Bonus Policy with a new Inclusionary Housing policy to encourage onsite affordable housing in new developments. This work is being undertaken in 2018. Council has directed staff to:

  • Establish affordable housing targets and levels of affordability to guide community amenity contribution negotiations;
  • Prioritize City objectives for community amenity contributions given limits on bonus density;
  • Develop a framework for the provision of bonus density in exchange for on-site affordable housing units, where feasible, within areas of the City through the zoning bylaw in a manner consistent with the Local Government Act;
  • Focus on a negotiated approach to community amenity contributions; and
  • Consider pre-zoning areas of the City (using bonus density zoning) for affordable housing.

Read the Council report here.  

 

Market Rental Revitalization Study (MaRRS)

The City has been exploring different municipal tools to protect and encourage the upgrading of Victoria’s large stock of pre-2000 market rental apartments. There are more than 16,700 apartment units housing a significant number of the City’s renters. With a vacancy rate of just 0.7%, the City needs to retain this large stock of older rental buildings. 

The City is considering three tools to retain these buildings:

  • A new bylaw to ensure basic housing quality (Rental Property Standards of Maintenance Bylaw)
    • Sets minimum standards of maintenance of commercial rental housing (more than 4 units)
  • A new policy to guide tenant assistance during displacement (Tenant Assistance Policy)
    • Sets guidance to encourage greater notice, compensation, relocation assistance, moving expenses and assistance, and right of first refusal
  • An incentive program to encourage energy and seismic upgrades while retaining tenant stability
    • o    Projects are only eligible for program if tenants are not displaced or Tenant Assistance Policy is adhered to

 

Victoria Housing Strategy – Annual Review

In November 2017 staff presented the first annual review of the Victoria Housing Strategy to City Council, detailing the actions achieved since the Strategy was implemented in June 2016. The report also contained a plan for adding new items to the Strategy going forward, and outlined an approach for the development of a new inclusionary housing policy to replace the existing Bonus Density Policy. Read the staff report here.

 

Garden Suites

Following a public hearing in April 2017, garden suites (also known as carriage or laneway houses) are now permitted as a right in zoning, as accessory rental dwellings to single family homes. Find out more on the Garden Suites page.

 

Victoria Housing Reserve Fund

The City has a grant fund available for the development and retention of affordable housing. Through the Housing Strategy and after consultation with housing stakeholders, the guidelines were updated to expand the eligibility criteria and flexibility for how the fund may be used, including creating a tiered system to encourage more family housing, and funding for home ownership projects. Read more about the Victoria Housing Reserve Fund here.

 

Secondary Suites

In April 2017 the City removed restrictions in zoning that reduced the number of homes eligible to develop secondary suites. Secondary suites are now permitted in most single family homes throughout the City. At this time, only one rental suite is permitted in any single family house, however, Council has directed staff to explore multiple rental suites and secondary suites in more intensive forms of housing (including duplexes and on lots with a garden suite) as a part of neighbourhood planning currently underway.

 

Removing minimum unit sizes

The City considered removing the minimum unit size regulations for multi-unit residential developments throughout the City (no minimum unit sizes currently exist in the downtown already) to improve the diversity of housing options in the City. Council ultimately declined to remove minimum unit sizes Citywide and instead directed staff to create a standard unit size in multi-unit zones outside the downtown of 33m2. This work is now complete.

Tell us what you think

Send us your questions, comments or great ideas to communityplanning@victoria.ca. Your feedback will be included in reports to Council.

Community Workshops

The Victoria Housing Strategy identifies a series of annual workshops as a way to collaborate and explore new ways of achieving housing affordability in Victoria. The first workshop, held on January 18, 2017, was on Affordable Home Ownership. Attendees were from a diversity of housing related fields including non-profit housing, development, finance, government, and academia.

Attendees heard from three speakers describing models of affordable home ownership that exist in other cities and discussed what role the City can play in facilitating affordable home ownership projects. View the presentations:

BC Affordable Home Ownership Presentation
Calgary Affordable Home Ownership Presentation
Canmore Home Ownership Model Presentation

The presentations were followed by a workshop. Participants were asked to identify which of the models could work in Victoria and what else needs to happen to help the City improve affordable home ownership. Read the engagement summary and detailed feedback here.