BC Housing will not pursue temporary use of Oak Bay Lodge as a shelter for people experiencing homelessness.
The 235-unit Oak Bay Lodge has been vacant since Aug. 14 when the last tenants were relocated to The Summit at Hillside Avenue and Blanshard Street.
Thus ends the Capital Regional District board’s July 8 motion to have CRD staff, B.C. Housing and Island Health explore using Oak Bay Lodge as a temporary COVID-19 related hospital facility and as temporary housing for people experiencing homelessness.
“The assessment is the building is not usable and we’d like to see it redeveloped and used as soon as possible,” said Oak Bay Mayor Kevin Murdoch.
BC Housing was looking for at least two years, Murdoch added. However, a pair of restrictive covenants and the dilapidated state of the building make it an unsuitable option for now.
“The [long-term] consultation with Oak Bay starts this fall,” Murdoch said. “That’s the big question, what do we want to see on that land. Duplicating the process for short and long term is confusing and we’d like to see the long-term development plan done sooner.”
Malcolm McNaughton, BC Housing’s director of regional development for Vancouver Island, confirmed the decision in a letter to the CRD on Aug. 5. It’s based mostly on two protective covenants, one that restricts the use of the property for “public good,” (which could include shelter accommodation and support for harm reduction, per the CRD report), but also that the property is specifically used for a retirement home. The covenants date back to 1971 and were put in place by the City of Victoria who sold the land at a reduced rate.
To use the building for temporary use the covenants would need to be discharged or modified, McNaughton noted.
“The process for this would be lengthy, extensive and the ability to use this facility at the end of the process is uncertain,” he wrote.
The CRD report outlines several issues with the building, which is beyond its expected life span.
“There is a greater need for a variety of housing and support services, more than there is room on that property even though it is four acres,” Murdoch said. “We’re hoping it’s a mix of housing and supportive care and community services. There will still be opportunities for multiple partners and I would be surprised if BC Housing isn’t one of them.”
There will be a push to build a mix of housing needs into the future use of the land but it’s hard to know what’s possible until all the partners are at the table, Murdoch added.
“I hope it could consider a continuum of care. But the [Capital Regional Hospital District] isn’t mandated to be generous, it’s not allowed to donate land for housing. So there has to be some piece where we create value on the property to get the maximum use on the land and bang for the buck.”
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