October 27, 2016

Council Highlights provide a snapshot of the progress made on City programs, initiatives and on Council decision-making. For more information on each initiative, please visit the accompanying link where noted. We welcome anyone who would like to receive Council Highlights to email us at engage@victoria.ca.

2017 Budget
Council has been considering the draft 2017 Budget and will continue to do so next week. The proposed budget totals approximately $224.5 million and the draft capital budget is roughly $51 million, resulting in an anticipated 2.91% increase for property tax and utilities combined.

The budget includes funding for the City’s Affordable Housing Reserve, completion of the Parks and Open Space Master Plan, the introduction of a new recreation registration software, continued local area planning, completion of the Arts and Culture Master Plan, and advancing options for the replacement of Fire Department Headquarters. It also proposes active transportation projects such as Fort Street corridor bike lanes, Heron Cove and Raymur Point Bridges along the David Foster Harbour Pathway, a number of park and playground improvements including Hollywood Park, Raynor Park and Central Park, and underground infrastructure upgrades for the City’s water, sewer and stormwater systems.

Preliminary approval of the draft budget is scheduled for next week and public input will start once preliminary approval has been given. Citizens will be asked to provide feedback via online survey, and the consultation period will culminate in a Town Hall/e-Town Hall on December 1.

City Takes a Closer Look at Short Term Vacation Rentals
The City is considering options for the regulation of short-term vacation rentals in Victoria as a means to increase residential rental stock. Currently there are thought to be approximately 300 AirBnB units in the city. An external study concluded that adding these 300 units back into regular rental stock might increase vacancy rates to some degree, but would not likely improve affordability. To allow for further discussion on the topic, staff will facilitate a workshop on short term vacation rentals with Council in January 2017 prior to any future policy considerations.

Improvements Being Introduced to the Development Process
This spring members of the development industry, design professionals, neighbourhood representatives and staff came together to share their ideas on how to further improve the development processes as part of the City’s third annual Development Summit. Suggestions brought forward by participants were presented to Council as a 2016-2017 Action Plan which has been approved and progress will be reported to Council in March 2017.

Some of the actions the City will undertake include continuing to improve the development review processes, developing capacity to accept planning and building permit applications online, expanding the City’s Development Tracker, updating regulations following completion of neighbourhood plans, working with Community Association Land Use Committees to improve the consultation process, and evaluating the City’s regulations around leasing of city space during construction.

These goals build on progress made from the 2015-2016 Development Summit Action Plan, including a reduction in review times for most categories of planning applications and building permits.

Amenity and Affordable Housing Expectations Established for Bonus Density in New Developments
The City’s Density Bonus Policy works to support new community amenities by asking developers to make an amenity contribution for extra square footage above a base density, up to the maximum densities envisioned in the City’s Official Community Plan for that area.

The community amenities that can be supported through new development include public realm improvements, seismic upgrades, any amenities that are outlined in neighbourhood plans, and now also affordable housing units in larger, new developments.

Through the Density Bonus Policy the City hopes to offset impacts of larger developments and make the city more livable.

The City will continue to negotiate the amenity contributions individually for larger projects. For typical developments outside of the downtown, and for smaller projects in the downtown, the new policy sets a fixed rate target for monetary contributions that support the community’s desired amenities.

The City may consider an additional 10% density bonus in some parts of the Downtown, for affordable housing.

City Aims to Add More Garden Suites
Residents interested in building a garden suite (carriage houses and laneway suites) on their property will no longer need to apply for a rezoning, and while a development permit will still be required, it will no longer require Council approval.

Simplifying the approval process for garden suites is an action of the Victoria Housing Strategy which aims to provide more affordable housing in the city.

The City will seek feedback from the Community Association Land Use Committees, members of the Mayor's Task Force on Housing Affordability, and groups that provided input into the Task Force work before presenting the updated bylaws to Council.

City to Seek Feedback on Increases to Development Cost Charges
Development Cost Charges (DCC) are charged to developers to help pay for infrastructure upgrades and park acquisitions or park upgrades related to population growth. The DCC rate is intended to reflect the impact growth has on infrastructure and parks; the greater the impact, the larger the charge. And if a development has no impact, then the DCCs cannot be applied to that development.

Examples of projects funded by charges collected include up-sizing sewer, water and storm mains; bike paths and pedestrian improvements; and park land acquisition.

The City’s current Development Cost Charge Bylaw has not been updated for nearly a decade. During this time, the City has completed several major plans (such as the Official Community Plan and infrastructure master plans) and now has more up-to-date information on anticipated growth and related infrastructure needs. As more growth is outlined for Victoria through these plans, rate increases are being proposed to DCCs.

Consultation on the proposed rate changes will start in November with the development community and non-profit agencies that build affordable housing. The feedback received will be used to inform the proposed bylaw amendments brought forward for Council’s consideration scheduled for early 2017.