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Missing Middle public hearing comes to a close after 11 hours

Council candidates were out in force to stake their stances on the controversial housing policy

By Shannon Waters
September 2, 2022
City Hall
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Missing Middle public hearing comes to a close after 11 hours

Council candidates were out in force to stake their stances on the controversial housing policy

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

Missing Middle public hearing comes to a close after 11 hours

Council candidates were out in force to stake their stances on the controversial housing policy

By Shannon Waters
September 2, 2022
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Missing Middle public hearing comes to a close after 11 hours
Photo: Shannon Waters / Capital Daily

The Victoria City Hall council chamber last night was not as crowded—nor quite as spirited—as it was for last month’s rowdy evening, as council reconvened for the second session of Victoria’s public hearing on the Missing Middle Housing Initiative (MMHI).

But far more prominent than councillors themselves—who were only able to quietly listen—in last night’s concluding session were council hopefuls. Several people vying for seats in the upcoming municipal election took advantage of the opportunity to raise awareness of their own position on the polarizing proposal.

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Mayor Lisa Helps once again opened the evening with instructions against heckling or applauding in response to presentations, emphasizing the hearing was an opportunity for councillors and community members to listen and learn.

“At the last hearing, there were people on both sides of the issue…that did not feel safe,” Helps said.

The room respected the mayor’s plea through the first six speakers—each of whom expressed support for MMHI—but when the first person to speak against the initiative wrapped up their presentation, some attendees broke out in applause.

After another warning from Helps, the rest of the meeting proceeded without a major interruption.

In a bid to accommodate everyone who signed up to address council, Helps eventually moved a motion to extend the hearing until midnight.

In the end, the hearing lasted well past midnight as more than 60 people made their thoughts on the initiative heard. As with the previous hearing, sentiments were quite evenly split between support and opposition for the initiative.

Missing middle, in the works since 2019, is an attempt to make new housing options available by, essentially, eliminating single-family zoning and replacing it with the ability to build up to 6 units on most lots, and up to 12 on some lots, throughout the city.

Arguments in favour of the proposal once again centred on the escalating housing crisis and dwindling options, particularly for families, which supporters believe has resulted in an outflow of young people from the city; the unfairness of allowing single-family homes to be built with no public input while townhomes and houseplexes languish in long, expensive processes; and the climate impacts of the sprawl that’s created when cities don’t densify.

Opponents decried a lack of affordability built into the proposal; a feared loss of neighbourhood character and heritage homes; the loss of “family housing” in the form of single-family homes; the loss of individual lots’ greenspace; and the sense, shared by many opponents, that there has been insufficient consultation with the community. Several also suggested council should not be voting on such a significant change to city zoning so close to the end of their term.

More council candidates weigh in

Several people who have put their names forward as potential candidates in the fall election were present at the hearing and they, like the public they are seeking to represent, were divided over the policy.

Stephen Hammond expressed opposition, citing concerns about buildings that would loom over their neighbours. Hammond also suggested that, “while this council has the legal authority to pass this initiative, I don't think you have the ethical authority to do so.”

He promised to move to rescind the motion, should he be elected and should the MMHI pass before the next council is sworn in.

A trio of candidates running on VIVA Victoria’s council slate also showed up. Jason Jones and Jeremy Maddock both voiced opposition to the policy, with Maddock suggesting a policy instead of offering breaks on property taxes to homeowners who offer affordable rental units—an idea he also champions on his election website.

Sandy Janzen, the third VIVA candidate in attendance, expressed a desire to “bridge the gap” between older homeowners opposing MMHI and younger renters supporting it.

“We have to find some middle ground but…without some caveats about affordability, based around rent controls, [MMHI] will not work,” she told council.

Five other council hopefuls—Jeremy Caradonna, Dave Thompson, Khadoni Pitt Chambers, Anna King and Tony Yacowar—all spoke in favour of the proposal with Yacowar urging mayor and council to “approve this initiative tonight so that we can begin to look to the future.”

Council candidates Matt Dell, Marg Gardiner, Steve Orcherton, and Jordan Quitzau had already taken the lectern to express—and highlight—their positions in the previous session. All but Dell were opposed.

The hearing also drew some prominent names from city government’s past.

Former mayor Alan Lowe called in to condemn MMHI as did former MLA Robin Blencoe.

Council will return to the issue at noon today with about 90 minutes of pre-recorded statements on MMHI yet to be heard.

After that, council will begin discussing the initiative with the opportunity to ask questions of staff.

By the end of the day, the future of the missing middle proposal in Victoria could be decided—whether council passes it, kills it, or is punted to the next council.

Correction on Sept. 2 at 11:00am: A previous version of this article omitted Khadoni Pitt Chambers and Dave Thompson from the list of council candidates who spoke in favour of the motion on Thursday.

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

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