A single mother with two children can spend at least three more years at a carriage home on her parents’ property.
Lori Shaw, the applicant, said her childhood home in Central Saanich has been in her family for almost a century. According to Shaw, her grandfather raised jersey cows for butter and later grew fruit trees on the land, which was later subdivided for housing. The remaining 0.9 acre lot is designated RE2 – Rural Estate, which permits agriculture (excluding feed lots), residential single family development, home occupation, or secondary suites.
In 2014, she applied for a temporary use permit to allow a shed to be converted into a carriage house, which was approved. It was renewed 3-2 at a committee of the whole meeting Tuesday night.
In a letter to council, Shaw wrote she was forced to move into the carriage house “after an acrimonious and financially devastating divorce” and there is “no way that I could afford market rent, or even buy a condominium, as the prices have increased vastly” since she first applied for the temporary use permit in 2014. She said it would also allow her to care for her parents who could age in place.
Central Saanich District staff recommended the temporary use permit be renewed for another three years, which was intended to give Shaw time to apply to rezone the lot permanently.
Shaw said she was surprised the ruling was so close since affordable housing has been an ongoing problem in the area and she has heard no complaints from neighbours.
“Some people don’t want to live in a block of affordable housing that the government has facilitated,” said Shaw. “Why can’t a family stay on family land and make things work rather than depending on external resources?”
Councillor Alicia Holman opposed the motion, as did Coun. Zeb King. Holman said later she was sympathetic towards the individual applicant, but felt council was not doing enough to address affordable housing on a broader level.
“My reason for voting against the individual application is I think there is a dire need for the District to work with staff to identify what our target is for introducing affordable housing for low to moderate [income earners] … and that for every application that comes before us for subdivision and rezoning, we should be asking how the application will contribute to affordable housing,” said Holman.
“There’s a broader issue here that I think requires council’s attention and the starting place for that is to set some targets and require of every application to contribute in some way, and I think that would be the way to address it,” she said.
Holman highlighted the 2003 Central Saanich guidelines on infill and densification and said she wants those seeking to rezone to consider how it would add to affordable housing stock. She criticized current development plans, like the Marigold Lands development, for not including more affordable housing.
“In my view, this council is not doing enough and the efforts I’m making to keep this on the agenda and provide the members of our community with a solid commitment to addressing the affordability issue by making use of the grants available and the tools available,” said Holman.
Coun. King in a phone call said “his heart goes out” to families like Shaw’s, but case-by-case applications were no substitute for a more comprehensive affordable housing strategy. He also said council does not do enough to press developers to build more affordable housing.
“Each multi-unit development that doesn’t include affordable housing is a lost opportunity,” he said.
Coun. Niall Paltiel said he did not understand why some councillors were opposed, adding the carriage house was a “perfect example” of a solution that fits in the community and a way for families to grow together in the capital region when prices are so high.
“Everyone on council talks about affordability and this is a prime example of putting your money where your mouth is,” he said in an interview.
“I’m surprised anyone would have voted against it especially when the applicant is sitting right there.”
On broader level affordability plans, Paltiel said “sometimes these things have to be approved on a one-off basis,” and that only focusing on broad strategies were a “delaying tactic.”
To address broader concerns of affordable housing, Paltiel said the council recently approved an infill and density review of the community, identifying areas to build more affordable housing and to manage the expectations of residents and developers. He also said he has spoken with developers about increasing the amount of affordable housing in their projects.
In the end, Shaw is thankful she will have a home for at least the next three years.
“I hope that council looks at different creative solutions rather than just being determined to come up with one idea,” said Shaw. “I know what co-op housing looks like. It’s not forever, you have to apply, that’s one solution, but why not multiple solutions?
Why not have long-term farm families be allowed a carriage house or split off a smaller piece? And if they’re worried about developers and that sort of thing coming in they can always put some constraints around it.”
The motion will not be finalized by council until next week’s regular meeting.