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A final decision on Missing Middle is coming, but not until the new year

Victoria council decides to proceed with controversial policy 'as if the current council members had heard the public hearing'

By Shannon Waters
December 8, 2022
Housing
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

A final decision on Missing Middle is coming, but not until the new year

Victoria council decides to proceed with controversial policy 'as if the current council members had heard the public hearing'

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

A final decision on Missing Middle is coming, but not until the new year

Victoria council decides to proceed with controversial policy 'as if the current council members had heard the public hearing'

By Shannon Waters
December 8, 2022
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A final decision on Missing Middle is coming, but not until the new year
Victoria City Hall. Photo: James MacDonald / Capital Daily

Victoria’s newly elected council plans to pick up where its predecessor left off on the Missing Middle Housing Initiative, but its next steps on the policy will wait until the new year.

A two-part public hearing on the controversial policy took place from Aug. 4 to Sept. 1, spanning more than 18 hours in total, but a decision was never reached before the previous council’s term came to a close in October. They voted to push the final call to after the municipal elections.

Thursday’s council agenda featured the first mention of Missing Middle since that non-decision: a public report was presented summarizing advice received during an in-camera interlude on Dec. 1, regarding how council could proceed now that the policy is before a set of councillors who were not part of the public hearing process.

The Missing Middle Housing Initiative would see Victoria’s zoning rules changed to allow people to build up to six units of housing on lots currently zoned only for single-family homes (12 units would be allowed on corner lots), adding opportunity for densification while effectively doing away with the notion of single-family-only zoning.

Currently about 70% of Victoria’s land area is occupied by single-family homes. The policy has inspired an ongoing, heated debate in Victoria over its implications for neighbourhoods, although the candidates who expressed support for the policy were much more successful in the municipal election than those who expressed opposition.

Council members were advised of possible paths forward for the policy, and resolved to move ahead with MMHI “as if the current council members had heard the public hearing,” said Mayor Marianne Alto. Most of the councillors were, in fact, in the room (or on the phone)—five of the seven council members spoke either in favour or against Missing Middle at the public hearing, while Alto was on council at the time.

A late motion from Coun. Stephen Hammond called on council to reconsider its Dec. 1 decision. Hammond’s motion was seconded by Coun. Marg Gardiner who, like Hammond, spoke against MMHI during the public hearing.

But after an hour deliberating on the motion in camera, council returned briefly to the public meeting and Alto delivered a succinct recap of the results of the closed-door discussion.

“I will simply report that…council considered the item enclosed and that no change was made to the previous decision on the process to further consider the Missing Middle Housing Initiative,” she said—meaning, council has gone with the original decision to proceed as though the current council presided over the policy’s public hearing.

A report on what was heard at the public hearing will be compiled to refresh councillors’ memories, and all materials presented to the previous council on the policy will be available for review. When they eventually resume discussions on Missing Middle, council members will have the opportunity to ask questions of staff and make further amendments to the policy.

Council’s next meeting is set for Jan. 6. Missing Middle will return to the agenda at some point, as yet undetermined, in the new year.

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

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