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Opinion: Victoria needs affordable rentals, not Harris Green and ‘rampant demolitions’

Local resident says mega-project isn’t a solution to city’s housing crisis
A view of the 1045 Yates Street property that would be phase one of the construction should the 1,600 rental unit Harris Green Village development be approved in Victoria. (Jake Romphf/ News Staff)


We need the right kind of rental housing in B.C. and in its capital city.

Since 2016, Victoria has experienced an unfettered housing boom, featuring thousands of luxury condos and townhomes few local families can afford.

Billions of dollars in real estate investment has been funnelled into Victoria by private equity firms, large-scale developers, and speculative investors — all facilitated by successive “enabling” municipal councils.

What’s the outcome for renters comprising 60 per cent of the city’s households? Rampant demolition of scarce affordable rental units, renovictions and large-scale displacement of long-term tenants by corporate landlords who often raise rents by 50 per cent.

Like the Gold Rush, the few benefit at the expense of the many. Tax holidays, higher density growth on pre-zoned land, fast-tracked approval processes and fewer public amenity contributions are measures designed to enhance the value of real estate investments.

Between 2005 and 2019, a thousand purpose-built rental units were built in Victoria, leaving the city in a rental housing deficit. Almost all of city’s existing rental units were built before 2000 and many now need core repairs.

In the past three years, 8,895 purpose-built units (almost 50 per cent of the city’s primary rental market) have turned over, leading to skyrocketing rents in a tight rental market with a low vacancy rate.

There’s a critical shortage of affordable rental housing supply. Last year, Victoria built 1,411 rental units but it needs 1,900 annually to meet current demand fueled by unprecedented population growth.

What does the new Council do? Without input from its Renters’ Advisory Committee, it (is set to approve) the city’s largest rental project Harris Green Village proposed by Starlight Developments - one of the leading multi-residential owners in Canada.)

This lauded housing “showcase” features a third of the 1,584 rental units as high-rent townhomes and family-units with premium amenities. Council reduced the allocation of below-market rentals from 15 per cent to five per cent (only 80 units).

We don’t need more demolition and evictions to build homes that the majority of residents can’t buy or rent.

Safe, secure and affordable housing for ordinary people is a necessity, not a luxury.

RELATED: ‘Showpiece’: Victoria signals strong support for 1,600-unit Harris Green Village

Victoria Adams, Victoria