Pushing a new model that’s already in demand from a segment of the population, Julien West said the housing his company wants to bring to Victoria isn’t just about having no parking, but is something fundamentally different.
Victoria lent its support for the six-unit, zero-parking houseplex that West, owner of Urban Thrive, and Lapis Homes have proposed for Belton Avenue in Vic West.
Over two years, the proposal has looked to make its case for straying from the North American norm of required parking being tied to homes in lower-density neighbourhoods.
The developers – buoyed by residents echoing the claim that many people in Greater Victoria already live car-light or car-free for various reasons – have designed the houseplex to take advantage of the walking, biking, transit, car share and other unique transportation options already steps away from the site.
“It provides a tangible example of how we can meet our climate, housing and community living goals all at once,” West said at a May 11 public hearing for the project.
The two- and three-bedroom unit building looks to cater to middle-class families. West pitched council on how the project could attract people who want to live closer to home – opting for the local market over the big box store – and are seeking a deeper engagement with their neighbourhood.
He contrasted how a typical Victoria houseplex includes a paved parking lot at the rear, while their proposal would have a backyard for kids to play and families to relax. He added the development’s homes would be $50,000 to $100,000 less than those in a comparable building with parking.
“Our proposal in front of you tonight is exactly what you’ve told us to provide, both in terms of the type of housing and helping to get people out of vehicles and into sustainable alternatives,” said West, who lives car-free in Vic West with his family of five.
Council voted 6-3 to move ahead with rezoning the property, while the final and largely procedural vote will come at a later date. Around twice as many people participating in the public hearing supported the proposal, but many who opposed it were residents of Belton Avenue. Several of those neighbours supported increased density or the building itself, but said both should be located elsewhere.
A number of Vic West residents said that area has already bared the brunt of new density, while those on Belton Avenue said the building would bring more vehicle traffic to the dead-end street or that it would be too big and change the neighbourhood’s character.
The proposal seeks minor variances for increased height and a heat pump extending into the allowed setbacks. Staff noted a single-family home built 0.4 metres shorter than the proposal and with the same setbacks wouldn’t have to go through the rezoning process at all.
Those who spoke in support of the project described their positive experiences going car-free and several parents wished such a building existed when they were trying to find housing.
Multiple speakers living with disabilities said the houseplex would meet many of their needs as they’re currently funnelled into options that just don’t work for them. One woman with lifelong complications stemming from several brain injuries said the proposal made it feel like she belonged.
“This project makes me feel like someone is trying to build housing for people like me.”