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LETTER: Fight to preserve neighbourhood ‘character’ casts a shadow on housing crisis

As most citizens know, there is a delicate balance between supporting change and preserving the status quo.

As most citizens know, there is a delicate balance between supporting change and preserving the status quo.

It seems that some well-heeled residents in Vic West, Esquimalt and now James Bay, are keen to shed light on themselves and their plight – losing unobstructed views and receiving unwelcome shade on their back gardens or decks from nearby proposed housing developments.

In the midst of a housing crisis affecting many Greater Victoria tenant households and first-time home buyers, well-organized heritage homeowners with multi-million-dollar properties are voicing their common NIMBY objective: Fight ‘behemoth’ five-storey housing projects.

Their refrain is the same, often revealing an underlying bias against the city’s values of “diversity, equity, and inclusion.”

They claim that this ‘dense’ type of mixed-use residential development, with its height and massing, is inappropriate adjacent to their traditional ‘acceptable’ housing form.

The proposed occupants (read Millennial-age renters, modest-income seniors, or outsiders) are said to be transient, insecure or lack respect for their neighbours’ privacy and the ‘character of the neighborhood’ (read gentrified, heritage, upscale, ground-oriented family housing.)

Feeling negatively impacted by what they perceive to be a threat to their social and economic status from new development, they claim it will harm their home investment, making renovation unfeasible or reducing the value of their once-appreciating asset.

These individuals often exert significant influence through the land use committees in neighborhood associations (a.k.a. homeowner lobby groups). They share a common aim: to preserve the status quo or secure special amenities from developers that protect their own interests at the expense of others.

Prominent homeowners decry unwanted shade on their property in public, while behind closed doors they meet with politicians and developers to advance their own special interests over those of the community at large.

If citizens want a city that truly meets their needs, they must engage in open and thoughtful dialogue to find common ground. This means sharing their concerns and perspectives, making suggestions on how to solve problems, and learning how to compromise.

This approach works well and lies at the heart of every healthy, sustainable and caring community.

Victoria Adams