Housing

OCPs, affordable housing, and the perfect Victoria: Capital Daily’s first Community Council session

Panelists discussed how increased density and broadscale upzoning would change communities

Housing

OCPs, affordable housing, and the perfect Victoria: Capital Daily’s first Community Council session

Panelists discussed how increased density and broadscale upzoning would change communities

James MacDonald / Capital Daily
Housing

OCPs, affordable housing, and the perfect Victoria: Capital Daily’s first Community Council session

Panelists discussed how increased density and broadscale upzoning would change communities

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OCPs, affordable housing, and the perfect Victoria: Capital Daily’s first Community Council session
James MacDonald / Capital Daily

Wednesday evening was Capital Daily’s inaugural Community Council session, featuring a panel discussion on housing and zoning in Greater Victoria past, present, and future.

These Community Council events are available to members, and we’re planning on bringing you more discussions on important topics that affect our community in the future. Consider becoming a member so you don’t miss out on our next event. But for now, here’s a brief recap of our first Community Council.  

The event was led by Capital Daily’s community manager Emmalee Brunt and managing editor Jimmy Thomson, with speakers Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps, former councillor Pamela Madoff, Dr. Runa Das from Royal Roads University, South Jubilee Neighbourhood Association president Matt Dell, and Mark Holland from VIU sharing their expertise and views.

Much of the discussion was focused around what densifying the city would look like and the potential for broadscale upzoning that will see communities changed drastically in coming years. With unaffordable housing and lack of community amenities as underlying themes throughout the event, the panel discussion went from what the perfect Victoria would look like, to who is and isn’t included in Official Community Plan (OCP) discussions.

Helps mentioned that her future Victoria is already envisioned in the city’s climate leadership plan with dense neighbourhoods, low carbon prosperity, biodiversity, many greenways, and strong local economies with village centres.

She noted that these solutions are something all cities need, in order to meet the challenges of inclusivity, affordability, diversity, climate change, and much more. However, Helps added that while these challenges seem discrete, they are, in fact, closely connected and can be addressed as a whole.

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For Madoff, the issue at the top of her mind is affordability. In her experience, supply is not a solution to the issue, or else it would already have been solved. Instead, she hopes for more partnerships to increase non-market housing.

Holland agreed with her and added that for supply to be a solution, the OCP requires five to six times the capacity.

“Everyone keeps talking about how we can’t supply our way out of it. Any realtor, and there’s 1,500 in the Victoria area, will tell you that a balanced market is six months of inventory,” he said. “I spoke with a realtor this morning, a very experienced Remax realtor today—there’s one month of inventory in the market right now, basically in the [Capital Regional District].”

Another major point of discussion in the evening was about whose voices are included in discussions about development—and whose aren’t.

With development companies growing their social media presences, Madoff felt public relations campaigns have begun to overshadow the concerns and issues raised by civilians. While everyone is invited and welcome to the discussion table, community members may be concerned that their opinions will not be accepted or heard.

As housing is a shared right for all, Das added, then more people and communities need to be included in the discussion process.

Helps said that while more people should be consulted and included, most speak on development with their current situation and quality of life in mind. Meanwhile, she feels it’s more important to look ahead and consider the impacts of development on future Victorians.

“I really see my job as making sure that 50 years from now [Dell’s] kid’s grandkid will have a welcoming, inclusive city as well. It means having a city that feels and looks very different than it is now.”

As the meeting came to a close, panelists were asked about the one thing that was needed to achieve their ideal Victoria. The proposed idea of taking politics out of buildings became a point of contention.

Helps shared her hope of having good design plans and more trust in the OCP to support future projects, without the need to be politicized.

Madoff, however, felt that removing politics from developments would remove the community from discussions, too. She felt there needs to be more ways to engage the community as a whole, not just those vocal about their opposition to change.

Along the same train of thought, Dell shared that communities need to work better for seniors and young people. But to do that, change needs to be embraced as a way to better the city, so more people will get on board to work together.

Over 60 Capital Daily members attended the information-packed event. Thank you again to the panelists for their expertise, and thank you to the amazing audience for their thoughtful questions.

Keep in mind that while this article mentions a few key notes, most of the hour-and-a-half-long meeting could not be summarized into a few paragraphs. If you are interested in learning more, consider becoming a member to be invited to future community meetings.

contact@capitaldaily.ca

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