Homelessness: Council has recently approved a set of 6 recommendations aimed at eliminating overnight camping in city parks by the end of March 2021 and ensuring more shelter space and services are made available. Do you support these 6 recommendations? How would you implement them?
I certainly support ending 24/7 camping in parks, and of course it can only happen if the province provides appropriate funding for shelter and significant supports the homeless population needs. The City must work with the province to ensure this is regionally distributed and meets the needs of our entire community.
The larger issue here is decision making and policy implementation that lead to the city of Victoria being the only municipality in the Capital Region to allow 24/7 camping. It creates induced demand and puts our city, our parks, our staff, and our services under incredible pressure. This action leads to the inevitable degradation of our parks, creates unnecessary conflict within the social fabric of our city and again has resulted in the politics of division, the creation of an “us” and “them”.
I feel that is by design. One Councillor warned quite clearly what would come about at the very beginning, It appears like everyone except for councillors, led by the Together Victoria contingent and their allies, those that created this mess in the first place, knew what was going to happen.
Housing First: How would you describe the key principles of a “Housing First” approach? How has the City of Victoria supported such an approach? What additional measures, if any, would you support as a Councillor?
I see the idea behind housing first is access to stable housing. Someone who lives with mental health or addiction has little chance to access meaningful supports or make a meaningful improvement in their lives. Access to housing is not made contingent to accessing services, but rather in of itself is a precondition to recovery.
I support housing first principles, but it needs to be understood that housing first does not mean housing only in large part is what we see today in Victoria.
A real housing first program is quite complex. I believe there needs to be a systematic approach for individuals to gain access. Crisis intervention and outreach are important elements that must be coordinated into the program with a combination of emergency shelter, and short-term housing. The goal is to get to longer term supportive housing and provide real meaningful supports that lead to treatment and recovery. Understanding that while the housing process is not tied, as a requirement, to the support pieces, those support pieces must be available, readily, and easily.
All of this requires significant funding and commitments from the province and the federal governments, and must be executed on a distributed, regional basis.
Housing Needs and Affordability: How would you define housing affordability? Which groups in Victoria currently lack affordable housing? What can the city do about this?
Affordable housing is, in large part, housing that is attainable for an individual. I prefer the term attainable housing as it carries less political baggage with it. The city chose to define affordable housing one way, and I tend to agree it those who would define it more inclusively to include transportation as a component, but in the end it’s not about how we define it, it’s about how we provide enough housing options across the entire spectrum of the housing continuum.
Victoria does not have enough homes, period. We need to build more purpose-built rentals; we need to address the missing middle of family sized mid density projects that are sorely lacking, and we need bring in social and non-market housing solutions. Non-profit project proposals should move to the front of the line and not languish for years in an arcane planning process. In fact, no project should take years to get approval and get going. We need to update our zoning bylaw to create certainty for developers, large and small, and we need to coordinate the densification of our major transportation corridors and urban village centres, where appropriate.
Inclusivity mandates: Inclusivity mandates require that a portion of new private developments be sold or rented below market rates (i.e., market rate housing units subsidize affordable units). Do you support inclusivity requirements for new development, and if so, what type of requirement? Should moderate-priced housing be excluded from this requirement?
The city went through an extensive process with outside consultants to determine what inclusivity mandate could both create a public good while ensuring housing, of all kinds, continues to get built in Victoria.
The city’s own consultants came back with for projects of a certain size 10% was the number. Immediately after the report presentation, council doubled it to 20%, even though they were warned of the potential consequences to the overall provision of housing stock in the city.
Council’s approach has not worked and is not working. Larger scale projects predictably shift to other municipalities. The provision of non-market units, social and subsidized housing does need to be pursued as a matter of policy, but that policy needs to be smart, nuanced and geared towards understanding that all types of housing is needed in Victoria.
Diversity and Representation: How can the City meaningfully take into account the housing needs of marginalized communities who are not normally heard in public consultation, including those who are impoverished; Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC); women;, differently abled; and the 2SLGBTQI+ community?
We need to ensure that our engagement process is real, informed, and managed in such a way that underrepresented groups have their say and are listened to with intention. Public consultation needs to return to being public consultation and not a public relations exercise. All people who make up Victoria are important in their own way and need to feel empowered to participate, to be assured that they do in fact have influence in the public realm and their contributions are valued.
Rentals - Victoria has seen rents increase by 15% in the last year. Current affordable rentals are being lost to renovictions and evictions due to redevelopment (“demovictions") and are typically replaced by rentals unaffordable to the previous tenants. What role do you see for the City in protecting renters from renovictions and demovictions? Would you support City policies that aim to increase protections for renters?
There Provincial government did not allow increase in rents this year, but previously set the increase at 2.6%. Rental rates, according to most housing outlets, have been stable over the past year in Victoria, and dropping slightly in some categories. We see increased supply coming online as the purpose-built rental boom continues and significantly reduced demand from most of the student population not returning to Victoria for the school year because of the pandemic. So to bring rents down, or at least hold steady, we need to keep building more housing, of all types, across the city and continue to focus on bringing purpose built rental projects, and non-profit projects, through the approval process efficiently.
Having said that, I support the city being a resource for tenants to understand their rights with respect to rental rates and tenancies. The Rental Property Standards of Maintenance Bylaw, while significantly flawed in some regards, is a supportable measure in principle.
Residential infill: To serve our growing population the Greater Victoria region must add 2,000- 4,000 new housing units annually, including a diverse range of moderate-priced homes. The CRD Origin Destination Household Travel Survey, and the recent study, Housing and Transportation Cost Estimate Study 2020 for the Capital Regional District, show that some people prefer to live in more compact, walkable neighborhoods, where they need fewer vehicles, spend much less on transportation, produce fewer emissions, and exercise more than they would in fringe areas. What do you think about higher density infill residential development in the City of Victoria?
I strongly support it.
Coordination of Housing and Transportation policies: In order to better coordinate housing and transportation policies to reduce automobile use, do you support efforts to improve walking and bicycling facilities, public transit services, and complete streets policies (streets designed to accommodate all modes)? Do you support traffic calming and other traffic speed reduction strategies if justified to increase pedestrian and bicyclist safety? If so, how should such policies be tied to housing development in Victoria?
Housing development and transportation policies do need to be considered jointly, and factor into affordability as I referenced in question 1. I support what works and what we can afford. I believe we need to move away from the old arguments of bikes vs cars and implement solutions that work for us all. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel each time we have an idea, we don’t need to always find a way to make our own made in Victoria solution the most expensive and inconvenient possible way to solve a problem.
We can be successful by addressing issues that exist, rather than those we imagine, and by understanding that increasing foot and bike traffic is good for all of us and will help us meet our climate change goal and that can be achieved without completely ignoring or denigrating the needs of the motoring public. It is my hope as we move to decarbonize the transportation sector we understand that there will still be traffic, it needs to flow and it needs to be able to park somewhere, and that we can integrate all modes of transportation in the city successfully if we work together instead of acting like adversaries.
The City’s Official Community Plan currently provides for high density residential development in some areas downtown and along major transportation corridors. Would you support upzoning these properties to their OCP density targets? Should the city try to capture the associated land value uplift? If so, how?
Yes, I support up zoning along major transportation corridors. This is common sense and will provide certainty for the housing development industry which will lead to greater housing development. The city should certainly look to maximize the value of such up zoning and could do so with a well-defined and focused community amenity contribution and housing fund contribution policy.