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Council will continue Missing Middle Housing Initiative discussion next week

City staff answered councillors’ questions during Thursday’s special meeting, but further debate on the policy will wait until next week

By Shannon Waters
September 3, 2022
Latest News
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Council will continue Missing Middle Housing Initiative discussion next week

City staff answered councillors’ questions during Thursday’s special meeting, but further debate on the policy will wait until next week

Victoria city hall. Photo: James MacDonald / Capital Daily
Victoria city hall. Photo: James MacDonald / Capital Daily
Latest News
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Council will continue Missing Middle Housing Initiative discussion next week

City staff answered councillors’ questions during Thursday’s special meeting, but further debate on the policy will wait until next week

By Shannon Waters
September 3, 2022
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Council will continue Missing Middle Housing Initiative discussion next week
Victoria city hall. Photo: James MacDonald / Capital Daily

The future of the Missing Middle Housing Initiative (MMHI) will not be decided until next week at the earliest.

Victoria council spent another three hours on the policy on Thursday, about half of which was devoted to pre-recorded submissions sent in by residents. Thirty submissions were submitted, 26 of which were in favour of the policy—a stark contrast between the presentations from Wednesday evening’s 11-hour public hearing, which saw a nearly even split between opponents and supporters.

By late afternoon, Mayor Lisa Helps announced discussion on MMHI will continue at next Thursday’s council meeting. 

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With council’s questions about the initiative answered by city staff, all that remains is debate on the main motion but even that would have added more than two hours to the proceedings, by Helps’ estimate.

“That would be up to 135 minutes worth of debate if we all take our full 15 minutes which… we probably will because there's a lot to say,” the mayor said. “Then if there are amendments, we would need to be here for potentially double that time. It is not good governance to carry on a meeting like this till eight o'clock or nine o'clock on the Friday of a long weekend.”

Staff say developer margins will be marginal and affordability concerns addressed

Coun. Shamarke Dubow raised the concern—which was brought up multiple times during the public hearing—that allowing multiplexes and townhouses to be built on single-family lots may be “a big gift to the developers” who could end up pocketing the proceeds of several home sales.

“What analysis has been done to figure out how much are we handing over here and how much is the city getting back in community benefits and other things?” he asked.

Staff referred Dubow to the conclusions of the financial feasibility analysis done by Coriolis Consulting, which indicated profit margins for MMHI housing are likely to be slim due to the cost of land and anticipated sale prices of MMHI units. 

Or, as city community planner Malcolm Maclean put it, the “average price of land in the city is generally at or above the price that a prospective builder can afford to pay for land.” 

That marginal profitability also leaves “little room” for MMHI developments to provide amenity contributions or below-market housing, per the report. To address that likelihood, the policy requires developers not offering units at below-market rates to make considerable contributions to the city’s housing reserve fund, Maclean told council.

“We are trying to make this kind of housing possible to build by prospective builders who do tend to have some profit margin in order to undertake the initiatives but we're also not giving away anything more than we need to for that,” he said. “Meanwhile, we're also taking an approach to capture as much public benefit as possible amidst that.”

A new approach for non-profit housing?

Coun. Ben Isitt raised the possibility of an amendment to the MMHI policy when he asked what would be required to apply the proposed bylaw changes only to housing backed by co-ops, non-profits, and government housing agencies during the first stage of the initiative.

After taking some time to consider the question, city staff advised that limiting the application of the bylaw changes would require “an entirely new approach.” 

When Isitt pressed the issue, staff recommended closing the meeting so councillors could receive legal advice in camera. A motion to do so passed over the objection of Coun. Geoff Young.

When councillors returned to the public forum, Helps announced the deferral of further discussion until next week.

Council will next meet at 10:30am on Thursday, Sept. 8.

Article Author's Profile Picture
Shannon Waters
Municipal affairs reporter

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