Map shows properties owned by affordable housing providers in the coty of Victoria. (Photo courtesy of the City of Victoria)

Map shows properties owned by affordable housing providers in the coty of Victoria. (Photo courtesy of the City of Victoria)

Streamlined application process recommended to bolster Victoria’s affordable housing supply

Eligible projects could maximize density, with approvals delegated by council

In an effort to rapidly expand the city’s housing supply, Victoria is looking into streamlining its application process for certain affordable and supportive projects.

The changes would give housing projects to be owned and operated by non-profit or government agencies maximum allowable density for the property in which the development was proposed – as defined in the Official Community Plan.

To expedite the application timeline, city staff propose the issuing of development permits for eligible projects be delegated to the director of sustainable planning instead of needing a vote by council, as long as the city’s approved design guidelines are satisfied and still inspected by the advisory design panel.

The process changes, outlined in a report coming to committee-of-the-whole on Thursday (Jan. 13), will require amendments to the land use procedures and zoning bylaws. The proposal was spurred in 2020 when council directed staff to support the rapid deployment of affordable and supportive housing with government partners and non-profit housing providers.

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Victoria’s housing crisis is seeing nearly half of its 27,720 renter households spend more than 30 per cent of their income on housing alone, and about 1,100 people are on the provincial wait list for an affordable rental in the city, the report states.

During consultations, housing partners told the city the current rezoning and development permit process “adds risk to a project, increases costs and makes it challenging for non-profits to deliver homes to those most vulnerable in our community.”

Moving to the recommended strategy would cut three to nine months off the application process, according to city staff.

The report also states the proposed changes would only apply to a small number of non-profit housing projects, highlighting how there were just 10 applications submitted to the city across 2018, 2019 and 2020.

“While the number of developments expected to take advantage of these process changes is not large, the benefit to Victoria residents would be significant given the acute need for new affordable rental units,” the report said.

It adds that senior government funding sources often require projects to already have municipal approval as a condition of applying, so the new process would help providers access subsidies to help deliver deeper affordability.

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affordable housingCity of Victoria