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Creative houseplex proposal moves ahead as Victoria council prioritizes housing over parking

Developer Julian West wants to “help catalyze a conversation” about housing and transportation

By Shannon Waters
January 22, 2023
Municipal
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Creative houseplex proposal moves ahead as Victoria council prioritizes housing over parking

Developer Julian West wants to “help catalyze a conversation” about housing and transportation

By Shannon Waters
Jan 22, 2023
A rendering of the sixplex proposed for 633 Belton Ave. Photo: Urban Thrive/Lapis Homes/Christine Lintott Architects/Biophilia Degisn Collective
A rendering of the sixplex proposed for 633 Belton Ave. Photo: Urban Thrive/Lapis Homes/Christine Lintott Architects/Biophilia Degisn Collective
Municipal
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Creative houseplex proposal moves ahead as Victoria council prioritizes housing over parking

Developer Julian West wants to “help catalyze a conversation” about housing and transportation

By Shannon Waters
January 22, 2023
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Creative houseplex proposal moves ahead as Victoria council prioritizes housing over parking
A rendering of the sixplex proposed for 633 Belton Ave. Photo: Urban Thrive/Lapis Homes/Christine Lintott Architects/Biophilia Degisn Collective

A proposal to replace a single-family home in Vic West with a six-plex with no parking will get a public hearing following council approval last week.

The development pitch comes from Urban Thrive and Lapis Homes—the same team behind the Richmond Road townhouse development unanimously approved by Saanich council in December. That development also lacks parking, a design feature that generated a lot of discussion, as well as disbelief from some residents who doubt new neighbours won’t come with cars.

Urban Thrive principal Julian West says his team is keen to “help catalyze a conversation” about housing and transportation in Greater Victoria and how policies on each influence the other.

“Those two are intimately linked and we've actually lost sight of that over time,” West told Capital Daily. “When it comes to putting vehicle parking on land, it is an extraordinary cost and absolutely drives the design process in a detrimental way.”

If approved, a single-family home on Belton Avenue will be replaced by a six-plex, made up of four three-bedroom units and two accessible two-bedrooms.

In lieu of car parking, there would be dozens of spaces to park bikes—including seven spaces for cargo bikes—as well as an on-street space for an electric Modo carshare vehicle. Urban Thrive would cover the cost of installing the electric charger but the city would be on the hook for upkeep.

West estimates that forgoing on-site parking will help lower the cost of the units by somewhere between $50,000 and $100,000 apiece.

Council’s decision to move the development forward was really encouraging to West, who is hoping to see the conversation on dense developments with little to no parking become less controversial in future.

“I shouldn't really have to justify getting people out of cars and creating compact housing when that's the vision of the city,” he said, pointing to Victoria’s goal of reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050.

A rendering of the sixplex proposed for 633 Belton Ave. Photo: Urban Thrive/Lapis Homes/Christine Lintott Architects/Biophilia Degisn Collective

The way of the future?

Council’s decision to move the proposed development forward came despite a city staff recommendation to reject it over the lack of parking.

Most council members felt the project’s upsides—new family-sized units, minimal tenant displacement plus a prime location for travel by transit, bike or foot—more than balanced out the downside of not meeting parking minimums.

“When people are calling out for family-sized homes and these are family-sized homes, [and] there is effectively no displacement, that's a biggie for me,” said Coun. Dave Thompson.

(The current tenants at the Belton property moved in knowing about the redevelopment proposal. They have been offered a rent-to-own program where 25% of rent goes toward purchasing a home in the new development—an offer they “plan to accept,” according to the submission to council.)

Coun. Krista Loughton noted the city has a ways to go to meet its family housing targets.

“We need an average of 283 family sized homes to be approved in the coming years to meet the 2025 target of 1,600 homes, so we need to get cracking.”

Couns. Stephen Hammond and Marg Gardiner both expressed concern about the proposal’s disregard for the city’s parking requirements.

“We need housing for people, all kinds of different kinds of people,” Hammond said. “I am worried about scaring away people who want to buy a house who really need the parking, even for their employment purposes.”

While living car-free won’t work for everyone, West says more than 100 families are on the waitlist for homes like the ones envisioned for Belton Avenue.

“We have people who are starting young families, people who are retirees, people with disabilities, people without disabilities—a very wide demographic,” he said. “People choose this lifestyle for a wide range of reasons. There are a lot of people who live this way already, or would live this way if we gave them that option.”

Other councillors seemed to share West’s view.

“I think this could be the way of the future and I'm proud to support it,” said Loughton.

“I think we're in a transitionary phase and this is the right direction for our city to start exploring this type of development,” added Coun. Matt Dell.

West also sees more developments like the one on Belton Avenue in the city's future, especially if the Missing Middle policy becomes a reality.

“It gives people a bit of a look at what you'd actually get as a result of [Missing Middle] and it helps kind of explains some of the trade-offs that staff were considering when developing that policy,” he said.

The Missing Middle policy envisions little parking—0.77 vehicle parking spaces per unit instead of the 1 to 1.45 spaces required under current zoning—to make room for more greenspace and encourage other forms of transportation.

Council is set to revisit the Missing Middle policy at this week’s council meeting.

Prioritizing housing over design restrictions

The Belton Avenue proposal was one of three residential developments approved for public hearings by council last week.

All three proposals will replace single-family homes. A nine-unit townhouse development on Kipling Street in Fairfield was recommended by staff and received unanimous approval from council while a seven-unit townhouse development on Shelbourne was recommended for rejection due to not meeting design guidelines. Council approved the proposal for a public hearing six to three.

“I need a really good reason to reject housing during a housing crisis,” said Coun. Jeremy Caradonna during discussion on the Shelbourne project. 

West finds that conviction encouraging.

”This council is quite ambitious and they're demonstrating where their priorities are pretty quickly,” he said.

West and his team are hoping the Belton proposal will go to a public hearing in March. If approved, construction could start this fall—pending permit approval—and if all goes smoothly, the first residents of the new development could be moving in as early as fall 2024.

Article Author's Profile Picture
Shannon Waters
Municipal affairs reporter
contact@capitaldaily.ca

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Creative houseplex proposal moves ahead as Victoria council prioritizes housing over parking
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