Proposed Process Changes for Affordable Housing

City Considering Process Changes to Support Affordable Rental Housing 

The City has received considerable feedback on how to improve the affordable housing application process. We’ve heard that the current rezoning and development application process adds risk to a project and increases costs and makes it challenging for non-profits to deliver homes to those most vulnerable in our community. 

Proposed Process Changes for Affordable Housing Providers  

In response, the City identified potential changesto encourage affordable housing investment from government and non-profit housing partners while maintaining strong municipal policy review and guidance to ensure project design meets the envisioned context of the surrounding area and other community priorities. 

Affordable Housing Qualifying Criteria

These changes would only apply to a small number of projects. The City is considering using a definition of “affordability” that would be defined as housing that is:

  • wholly owned and operated by a registered non-profit residential housing society or government agency, or operated by a registered non-profit residential housing society or government agency pursuant to a legally binding arrangement with the property owner; and
  • subject to a legal agreement securing affordability and rental tenure.

The process change the City is considering is a two-tiered process change for projects meeting the above affordable housing criteria.   

Tier 1:  Development Permits for affordable non-market housing, with or without variances, where the project meets the affordability criteria, would be delegated to the Director of Sustainable Planning and Community Development, and not go to Council.

  • Applications must be consistent with Design Guidelines previously approved by Council
  • Applications would still go to the Advisory Design Panel to provide additional design insight and feedback
  • It is estimated that this change will save two to four months of application processing time 

Tier 2:  Building on Tier 1, allow the maximum density contemplated in the Official Community Plan (OCP) for affordable housing projects, without requiring rezoning. This would mean that fewer projects would need to go to public hearing thereby saving time, costs and risk to affordable housing providers.

  • When paired with the Tier 1, the Director of Sustainable Planning and Community Development would review Development Permits and Development Permits with Variance, not Council
  • Applications must be consistent with Design Guidelines previously approved by Council
  • Existing zoning must allow for residential uses (e.g., multiple dwelling) 
  • Both tiers together would offer application process time savings of three to nine months

Council Direction

Based on the urgent need for affordable housing, Council directed staff in June 2020 to
re-prioritize actions in the Victoria Housing Strategy to support the rapid deployment of affordable and supportive housing with government partners and non-profit housing providers.

Following this direction, Council received a report on May 20, 2021, that identified two process changes (Tier 1 and Tier 2) that could support a more streamlined planning process for affordable housing providers. 

Subsequently, Council directed staff to move forward with targeted consultation with key stakeholders including affordable housing providers, Community Association Land Use Committees, and Urban Development Institute as well as a public notice of the proposed changes on the website for this targeted consultation.  

Impact of Changes

It’s important to note that the proposed process changes would apply to only a small number of affordable housing projects each year. For example, two applications were submitted to the City of Victoria in 2018, five in 2019 and three in 2020.

Affordable housing providers have limited funding, finite land and organizational capacity, and, therefore, need to be strategic in terms of how many projects they can advance in any year.  While the number of developments is not large, the benefit to Victoria residents is significant given the urgent need for affordable housing.

Next Steps

Feedback received through consultation will be considered as staff prepare recommendations for Council. This feedback will also be shared with Council as they consider the next steps for this project, which could include a public hearing. 

Opportunity to provide feedback

Feedback on affordable housing criteria and the proposed process changes for affordable housing please send comments by email.