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Helps moves motion to keep the issue alive after next month’s election
The future of the Missing Middle Housing Initiative will be decided by the next Victoria city council, following a motion put forward by Mayor Lisa Helps.
“It's with regret that I put this referral motion on the table so that at least the next council can start with all of the insights that have been gained from the public over these past three years,” Helps said in council Thursday afternoon.
Her motion came after more than four hours of deliberation during which Helps, along with Couns. Marianne Alto and Jeremy Loveday, expressed intent to support MMHI while Couns. Stephen Andrew and Geoff Young outlined their opposition.
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Coun. Ben Isitt said MMHI is “not beyond redemption” but said he would not support it without better provisions to require affordability. Isitt succeeded in amending the proposed bylaw changes to double the cash contribution required of developers whose MMHI projects do not meet affordability requirements; he then moved a referral motion to have staff report back next committee of the whole meeting with “recommendations on all options for strengthening affordability provisions and missing middle bylaws,” which was seconded by Coun. Sharmarke Dubow but not passed.
Isitt seconded Helps’s motion to refer MMHI to the next council with “a fresh mandate” and the opportunity for discussion on the policy to carry on throughout the upcoming election campaign.
“Hopefully getting to a point where the community isn't divided essentially into two roughly equal camps, ideally, where there's a majority that favours moving forward with this housing form, I think is a more supportable way to proceed,” Isitt said.
Andrew backed Isitt’s reasoning in supporting the motion.
“This policy so far has divided the community,” he said. “I would like to see a process where … we get more people behind it.”
Ultimately, the motion to push the decision to the next council passed 5-4 with Helps, Alto, Loveday and Sarah Potts opposed.
Helps told Capital Daily she was “disappointed” to see the issue punted to the next council but glad it was not defeated.
“I didn't want it to be an election issue because it's more urgent than that, but I guess it is now,” she said. “I hope the public will elect a mayor and council that will vote for the housing we need for the future of the city when this comes back to their table.”
Council hopefuls have been making their views on the initiative known, online and in public hearings, setting up an election that will be decided at least in part based on candidates’ plans for the crisis Missing Middle was intended to help solve.
During her opening remarks on the policy, Helps drew on the famous Wayne Gretzky quote: “You need to go where the puck will be—not where the puck is—if you want to score a goal.”
The goal, in this case, being “more housing for more people” in Victoria, according to Helps.
By passing the missing middle initiative, Helps expected council would have put the city “where the puck is when it's passed to us down the ice” by the province, which is expected to introduce legislation sometime this fall aimed at accelerating housing development at the local level. The outgoing mayor, who is not running for re-election, also highlighted the billions the federal government is set to pour into housing development over the next few years via the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s housing accelerator fund—again relying on a hockey metaphor to make her point.
“The new council is going to be starting standing still at centre ice rather than moving towards the goal,” Helps said of the impact of pushing the policy past the municipal elections. “But they'll have to just catch up and skate faster.”
Coun. Andrew suggested provincial powers would be better directed toward implementing licensing requirements for short-term rentals while Couns. Young and Isitt expressed hope the anticipated legislation will not strip councils of their zoning powers.
Whatever the province does or does not do when the legislature resumes in October, contending with its impacts and deciding the future of MMHI is now an issue for the next council.