Victoria Council backs off affordable housing policy worrying developers -- for now

There is some relief for developers after Victoria's Council of the Whole decided to hold off on a motion aimed at forcing developers to include at least 15% affordable units in new builds.

Instead the city will bring stakeholders together in a working group to develop a workable policy by the end of March.

Meantime staff have been told to negotiate either an affordable housing or cash-in-lieu component for future projects.

Councillor Ben Isitt calls it a "placeholder" measure that will ensure there will be no more "expensive buildings with exclusively expensive housing" that don't contribute to affordability.

The Urban Development Institute raised the alarm after learning of Councillor Isitt and Jeremy Loveday's proposal to resurrect the interim "Inclusive Housing and Density Bonus Policy" -- considered by the previous council in September.

UDI Executive Director Kathy Hogan says the policy would have put the brakes on new builds, and increased the cost of housing.  She explains developers are already dealing with a range of issues impacting the bottom line:

" The margins are very, very small. As much as some people may think they're not. But you know with the cost of land, and the increased cost in labour, and materials with the international tariffs that are being put on. Interest rates have gone up. So all of these shrink the amount of money, and increases the cost of building these units."

Hogan says news of the policy discussion caused a lot of angst in the building community, and she is relieved councillors listened -- deciding to back away from the policy for now and engage the community:

" And there will be a working group, and we will be working with the city on this and come up with a way that will work for everybody. Not just the city and the developers, but everybody who works in the city."

The working group will include the development community, as well as non-profits, BC Housing, Victoria Tenant Action Group, neighbourhood associations, and city staff. Public input will also be invited.

However, Hogan says many developers remain concerned about the city's direction, which means uncertainty still exists, and that could still impact building decisions.  

 

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