Rapid Deployment of Affordable Housing Resources

Resources for Affordable Housing Providers  

On April 22, 2022, Victoria Council unanimously passed new process and regulatory updates to accelerate the construction of new non-market affordable rental and cooperative housing in the City. It’s one of several major policy moves identified in the City’s Housing Strategy to close the supply gap and make homes more affordable, accessible and attainable for people in the city.  

To advance the rapid deployment of affordable housing, projects by non-profit, government or co-op housing organizations will no longer require rezonings or public hearings when they are consistent with the City’s Official Community Plan, applicable design guidelines and other key qualifying criteria 

All City approvals for qualifying projects will now be delegated to staff, including development permits and variances. In addition, developments that meet all the necessary qualifying criteria will be permitted to build up to the maximum density in the City’s Official Community Plan without a rezoning application.  

This change is expected to cut up to 11 months off current timelines for projects that qualify for the accelerated approvals process.  

Key Elements of Rapid Deployment of Affordable Housing

Delegated Development Permits  

Development Permits for qualifying affordable non-market housing are delegated to the Director of Sustainable Planning and Community Development  

To qualify:  

  1. Applications must be consistent with Design Guidelines previously approved by Council. 

  1. The project meets the City’s affordable housing definition. 

Qualifying applications go to the Advisory Design Panel to provide additional design insight and feedback. 

Increased Density for Affordable Housing Projects 

Under the Rapid Deployment of Affordable Housing regulatory pathway, qualifying projects can build to the maximum density contemplated in the Official Community Plan (OCP) without a rezoning application. Qualifying projects do not require Council approval or a public hearing, saving time, costs and risk to affordable housing providers. 

To qualify:  

  1. Applications must be consistent with Design Guidelines previously approved by Council. 

  1. Existing zoning must allow for the proposed residential use (e.g., multiple dwelling). 

  1. Projects must not exceed the maximum density in the OCP as outlined in Schedule O of the Zoning Bylaw. 

Projects that take advantage of both elements of the Rapid Deployment process would benefit from an accelerated approvals process resulting in a quicker and more cost-effective process.

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.

Principles of Qualifying Projects

 

Key Qualifying Definitions  

All projects looking to qualify under the Rapid Deployment of Affordable Housing need to meet either the Affordable Housing Development or Cooperative Housing Definition from the Zoning Bylaw and Land Use Procedures Bylaw Definitions: 
 
“Affordable Housing Development” means a housing development that is:  

  1. subject to a legal agreement securing affordability and rental tenure for a minimum period of 60 years, and is either:  

  1. wholly owned and operated by a public housing body as prescribed in the Residential Tenancy Act, or  

  1. operated by a public housing body as prescribed in the Residential Tenancy Act pursuant to a legally binding arrangement with the property owner; 

“Cooperative Housing” must be a housing cooperative pursuant to the cooperatives act and have purposes including the provision of providing affordable housing to low- or moderate-income households in their organizing documents.  

  1. Subject to a legal agreement securing affordability and is either: 

  • wholly owned and operated by a housing cooperative, or  

  • operated by a housing cooperative pursuant to a legally binding agreement with the property owner, 

 

Frequently Asked Questions

 

What regulatory and process changes have been made to support the development of affordable rental housing in Victoria?  

The City is accelerating the rapid deployment of affordable housing where qualifying projects are consistent with the OCP and applicable Design Guidelines. Projects will now follow a delegated staff review process. Qualifying affordable housing projects can build up to the maximum density identified in the Official Community Plan, as outlined in Schedule O of the Zoning Bylaw, without requiring a rezoning application. 

 Where does the Rapid Deployment of Affordable Housing apply? 

This process applies to qualifying projects everywhere in the City where current site zoning permits the proposed use.  

 What qualifies as “affordable housing” for the accelerated approvals process?  

“Affordable Housing Development” means a housing development that is:  

a) subject to a legal agreement securing affordability and rental tenure for a minimum period of 60 years, and is either:  

i) wholly owned and operated by a public housing body as prescribed in the Residential Tenancy Act, or  

ii) wholly operated by a public housing body as prescribed in the Residential Tenancy Act, pursuant to a legally binding arrangement with the property owner 

 When would affordable housing projects still be required to go through a rezoning process? 

All projects that do not qualify for the Rapid Deployment of Affordable Housing proceed through the rezoning process. This could be due to: 

  • the project is inconsistent with the applicable design guidelines  

  • the density proposed exceeds the maximum density identified in Schedule O of the Zoning Bylaw 

  • the project does not meet the affordable housing definition 

  • the existing zoning for the site does not permit the proposed residential uses (for e.g., if a project proposed Multiple-Dwellings but the existing zone only allowed duplexes, the proposal would require a rezoning.) 

Is my project eligible? 

If your project complies with all the following, it may qualify:  

  • Ownership: Housing is wholly owned and operated by a registered non-profit residential housing society or government agency or operated by a registered non-profit housing society or government agency pursuant to a legally binding arrangement with the property owner.  

  • Affordability: The project is subject to or willing to enter into a legal agreement securing affordability and rental tenure. 
  • Zoning: The parcel is zoned for the proposed residential use. For example, if the project is proposing an apartment building the existing zone would need Multiple Dwelling as a permitted use.  
  • Density: The proposed density does not exceed the maximum density identified in Schedule O of the Zoning Bylaw. 
  • Design: The project is consistent with applicable design guidelines. 

If the Official Community Plan Urban Place Designation envisions apartment buildings is that enough to qualify? 

No, Multi-family or Multiple Dwellings must be a permitted use in the existing zone to qualify for this program. Under provincial legislation, the City is not able to remove the rezoning process where the proposed use (e.g., multiple dwelling) is not permitted under the current zoning.   

Can Housing Cooperatives qualify?  

Yes, Housing Cooperatives have access to the same process with all the same requirements as affordable housing projects, and they must meet the City’s definition of Cooperative Housing. 

How is “Cooperative Housing” defined for the Rapid Deployment process 

  • Must be a housing cooperative pursuant to the cooperatives act and have purposes including the provision of providing affordable housing to low- or moderate-income households in their organizing documents.  
  • Subject to a legal agreement securing affordability and is either: 
  • Wholly owned and operated by a housing cooperative, or  
  • Wholly operated by a housing cooperative pursuant to a legally binding agreement with the property owner, 

Can development permits with variances be approved under the Rapid Deployment process 

Yes, for qualifying projects all development permits with or without variances are delegated to staff for review and approval.   

Do all the residential units in a housing project need to be affordable to qualify?  

Yes, 100% of the residential units must be owned or operated by the public housing body to qualify under the Rapid Deployment process  

What support is provided to non-market projects that require a rezoning process? 

All non-market rental housing projects receive priority processing by staff. Also, the City has policies (Official Community Plan Policy 6.5 A-B) to support projects where they are seeking a rezoning, which may allow for projects to benefit from flexibility on height and density without an OCP amendment. The development must be consistent with city policies, good urban design principles, and responds to the envisioned context of the surrounding area.