Saturday, June 22, 2024

‘Missing Middle Housing Initiative’ passed by Victoria city council will create more homes


A decision has finally been made. 

On Thursday, January 26th, the City of Victoria’s city council passed new zoning bylaws that have been in the works for five years — the Missing Middle Housing Initiative.

As the newly formed council’s first big policy, this will be a jumping off point for developers to build more residences on a single-family lot in Victoria. 

“Rather than build a single-family home, a landlord could build a six-plex on the same lot,” said City Councillor Matt Dell.

“So instead of one unit, you’re getting six units, if I was a renter I’d be pretty excited about that.”

Prior to this act being passed, a developer or a landlord could knock down their home but they could only rebuild a single-family home. To build or subdivide a home into separate units is a process that needs approval and can take years for the application to be processed. 

“If you go through Fernwood or Oaklands, it’s just a bunch of single family homes because that’s all you were allowed to build essentially,” said Dell.

“Previously we were incentivizing single-family homes because they were the easiest and cheapest thing to build, which recently has meant ‘McMansions.’ People are building the biggest single-family homes possible.”

“Meanwhile if you want to build a duplex or a triplex, you have to go through rezoning and a public hearing process that adds years.”

Dell said this new policy wipes all that out for renters and landlords. 

Landlords will now be able to get more tenants on their properties which will benefit them and renters will have more choice in the future because supply of units will rise, demand will drop which could drive rent costs down.

Former mayor Lisa Helps and her council had been working on ‘missing middle’ zoning bylaws since 2019.

“Missing middle housing was on the 2019 Strategic Plan, so it was a goal of the last council,” Dell told Victoria Buzz.

“They just couldn’t quite agree on how to get there.”

Dell said council directed City of Victoria staff to start working on it in 2020 doing engagement and drafting bylaws. 

“They were working on it for three years and when it was done, they just couldn’t agree on the details.”

The new Missing Middle Housing Initiative will not show immediate results because it will take some time for developers and people rebuilding on their ‘single-family’ lots to build these multi-unit homes. 

This is a long-term change for the future of housing in the city,” said Dell. “I think in the next five years we’ll start to see a noticeable impact.”

Dell said no other Greater Victoria municipality have similar policies to this missing middle solution. It’s similar to zoning bylaws that municipalities around Canada have been experimenting with to aid population density and rising rent costs.

“Everyone’s kind of playing around, trying to figure out a way that is politically feasible but also will build new housing.”

The new policy comes with a ‘bonus density provision.’ This means developers can build smaller units but if they want to build a bigger single-family home they have to buy that density back from the City. That money gets utilized for building affordable housing and goes toward community amenities such as parks.

“This is a way that we’re really going to build more three-unit homes, townhomes, duplexes and the type of housing that we desperately need for growing families and people who need more space,” Dell told Victoria Buzz.

“I think it’s a great path forward for this city and I’m excited this council could make a decision and be bold here.”

Curtis Blandy

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