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Victoria sees slight increase in new housing but missing middle still, well, missing

Advocates say new housing 'burdened by unnecessarily complex and expensive approval processes'

By Nina Grossman
November 17, 2022
Latest News
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Victoria sees slight increase in new housing but missing middle still, well, missing

Advocates say new housing 'burdened by unnecessarily complex and expensive approval processes'

By Nina Grossman
Nov 17, 2022
A multi-unit development in Langford. Photo: James MacDonald / Capital Daily
A multi-unit development in Langford. Photo: James MacDonald / Capital Daily
Latest News
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Victoria sees slight increase in new housing but missing middle still, well, missing

Advocates say new housing 'burdened by unnecessarily complex and expensive approval processes'

By Nina Grossman
November 17, 2022
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Victoria sees slight increase in new housing but missing middle still, well, missing
A multi-unit development in Langford. Photo: James MacDonald / Capital Daily

The number of new housing projects started in Victoria this October is up nearly 80% from the same month last year, federal data reveals. But that’s only one piece of a complex situation for the region’s housing crisis.  

The monthly report from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) shows 337 housing starts in Greater Victoria in October 2021, and 604 in October 2022.

The number of single family homes being built dropped from 730 to 598 over the period since January, compared to the same period last year. New apartments picked up the slack, with 1,368 apartment starts in the City of Victoria so far this year.

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Casey Edge, executive director of the Victoria Residential Builders Association, notes that construction of “missing middle” housing—duplexes, triplexes, townhouses and small apartments—have seen minimal increases, and are on the decline in some municipalities.

“That is housing that is most suitable for…young families, and more affordable than a detached home, and there’s a decline there.”  

By contrast, six semi-detached and 49 row homes have been started so far in 2022 in Victoria, and Saanich has had zero starts on semi-detached or row homes so far this year.

Meanwhile Langford has seen 42 semi-detached and 118 row home housing starts in 2022, a decline from last year’s 173 row home starts.

Oak Bay had zero missing middle housing starts in 2021 or 2022.

To Edge, those numbers are indicative, at least in part, of development costs in a municipality.

For the most part, developers have to navigate the same fees and processes whether they build townhomes or a multi-unit apartment building, and the latter bring in more money.  

Edge said he wouldn’t be surprised if the region sees an overall decrease in housing starts next year, thanks to the rising interest rates. Many of the 2022 starts may have been pre-purchased before the summer and fall rate hikes, he said.

A modest proposal

Some are hoping to even the playing field, both for builders of homes and for buyers.

Homes for Living YYJ joined a coalition of non-profits in sending an open letter to premier-designate David Eby, asking for an ambitious response to the ongoing housing crisis, with an emphasis on provincial intervention where they perceive municipal governments to be failing. Eby promised, in his leadership campaign, legislation that would increase density allowances across the province—zoning every lot for a minimum of three units rather than a single home. The advocates say that doesn’t go far enough, and call for provincial legalization of six-plexes, “with at least six-floor buildings allowed in major urban areas near frequent transit.”    

“New housing, including public and non-profit housing, is burdened by unnecessarily complex and expensive approval processes,” the letter said. “Across much of British Columbia’s urban land, municipalities simply make new housing illegal.”

An ambitious response is needed, the letter said, including a provincial overhaul on minimum zoning standards as a form of direct intervention to boost multi-unit housing production. The organizations also call on the province to directly approve housing to overcome municipal hurdles like height, setback and heritage designations.

Canadians are ready for federal action too.

A poll released this week by Generation Squeeze, a charitable think tank, revealed that Canadians are in favour of having the government soften the home principal residence tax  exemption. The popular exemption, first introduced just two years after the capital gains tax itself, exempts increases in the value of a principal residence from taxation, motivating people to purchase homes as a means of wealth accumulation.

The Generation Squeeze survey asked 1,010 Canadians whether they would support “implementing a modest surtax paid by Canadians who own homes valued above $1 million. Fifty-nine per cent supported the idea, while 28% strongly or moderately opposed it.  
According to Generation Squeeze, one in two respondents from BC and Ontario—where roughly 25% of households own homes valued above $1 million—support the idea of a surtax.

Article Author's Profile Picture
Nina Grossman
Newsletter Editor
[email protected]

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