Housing Strategy

Victoria is committed to improving housing affortability for citizens.

Victoria's Housing Strategy, 2016 - 2025 is the City's plan for how to improve housing affordability over the next decade. It 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 directed staff to replace the existing Density Bonus Policy with a new Inclusionary Housing and Density Bonus 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.

September 6 2018 Report

In September 2018 Council considered a draft Inclusionary Housing and Density Bonus Policy, informed by a jurisdictional best practice review and economic analysis. At the September 6 meeting, Council made the following motions:

  • Approve the draft Inclusionary Housing and Density Bonus Policy with the following amendments:
    • A cash contribution of $200,000 per affordable housing unit in lieu of the delivery of on-site affordable rental units, may be considered for the following project types: Projects delivering less than 20 net new strata units
    • That the Policy take effect no later than March 31, 2019
    • And direct staff to undertake further consultation with stakeholders.
  • Adopt the updated affordable housing targets and levels of affordability to guide community amenity contribution negotiations, and incorporate these in the Victoria Housing Strategy to be updated in Quarter Four of 2018.
  • Direct staff to further explore pre-zoning by consulting with stakeholders, including the Community Association Land Use Committees. And other interested community stakeholders and Victoria Civic Heritage Trust
  • That staff report back twelve (12) months following adoption of the policy with information on: (a) the impacts on new developments; (b) total amenities received, identified by value and type; and (c) recommendations for any potential revisions to the policy.
  • That the Development Summit this year be called the Housing Summit.
  • Flag for further discussion and research whether the 3 bedroom allocation at 5% is sufficient.
  • As part of the consultation, that staff be directed to consult on two options for calculating bonus density - from the base density in the OCP and from the current zoning - and the implications of each for the creation of the maximum amount of affordable housing through rezoning.

Protecting Rental Housing and Tenants

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 moving forward with three intiatives to protect rental housing and support for tenants:

  • The City of Victoria’s new Tenant Assistance Policy provides guidelines for tenant assistance when renters are forced to move because their building is being redeveloped. 
  • A Rental Energy and Seismic Upgrade incentive program will aim to improve energy performance and seismic upgrades to the City’s aging rental apartment buildings while retaining tenants. Council has directed staff to identify pilot projects for testing and further development of this incentive program.
  • A new Rental Property Standards of Maintenance Bylaw will establish a basic standard of repair for residential rental properties. The bylaw will apply to all rental units on a one-year trial basis.

Garden Suites

Recent changes mean that garden suites are now allowed in single-family zones across the city, making it easier and less costly for homeowners to build new garden suites. Find out more on the Garden Suites page.

Secondary Suites

Secondary suites are now permitted in most single family homes throughout the City. 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.