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Survey finds almost 90 per cent of Oak Bay residents want infill housing

Planners prioritize flexible housing options while preserving look and feel of district
Oak Bay community members participate at a design fair for the second round of public engagement on the district’s infill housing strategy. An initial round of public engagement found 88 per cent of Oak Bay residents support the implementation of infill housing. (Courtesy District of Oak Bay)

Almost 90 per cent of Oak Bay residents hope to see infill housing brought to the district, a public engagement summary revealed.

Council, meeting as committee of the whole on June 15, was told by Lindsey Fryett Jerke, an urban planner for DIALOG, the first round of engagement revealed 88 per cent of Oak Bay residents desire at least one type of infill housing, and most notably townhouses and duplexes.

“While people want to see infill housing, it is important to them that it achieves a high quality of design and contributes to the unique character of Oak Bay that they love today,” Fryett Jerke said, adding the community prioritized preserving greenspaces and ecology and housing demographics such as young people, young families and seniors.

Coun. Hazel Braithwaite noted survey respondents aged 15 to 49 comprised the highest turnout at 312 responses, with those aged 50 to 90 constituting 209 responses.

“I think that’s the first time in Oak Bay’s history that we’ve ever had people under the age of 50 answer a survey more than people over the age of 50.”

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At a design fair during the second round of engagement, more than 100 participants had the chance to partake in hands-on activities and provide further guidance.

Most supported all possible infill housing types in the strategy, but some also showed interest in other housing forms like apartments, panhandle lots, fourplexes and secondary suites. Others called for a re-analysis of parking and garages and exploration of other transport options.

DIALOG proposed three initial infill strategies: simplifying large lot subdivisions to limit rezoning and permitting; adding multiple units that fit within current regulations, which would likely encourage duplexes and detached suites; and rezoning Oak Bay’s 300 legal duplexes that don’t conform to zoning bylaws.

“We think infill is appropriate throughout the District of Oak Bay, and the engagement supported that,” said DIALOG senior planner Kevin King.

He noted this doesn’t imply the same kind of infill everywhere as Oak Bay has a great diversity of lot sizes, conditions and topography.

“Infill isn’t a singular thing. Infill is something that can attract different incomes or different stages of life or different rationales for infill as well.”

DIALOG also looked at options for townhouses, triplexes, duplexes, heritage conversions, large lot subdivisions and detached suites.

“It’s not absolutely a given that every type of infill would be able to be accommodated,” King said. “If the lot isn’t a certain size, you won’t be able to get townhouses or potentially even triplexes on it.”

He acknowledged parking is challenging to fit on each site and may not benefit every resident.

To ease the implementation of infill housing, he primarily suggested updating bylaws and legal zoning uses.

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Incentives to retain and renovate current buildings while still accommodating infill are needed, he said, adding “the most sustainable building is the one already built” given its embodied energy and existing materials.

“We’re really confident that much can be done without changing dramatically the physical look or feel of Oak Bay to accommodate infill.”

During the meeting, Coun. Eric Wood Zhelka opposed concluding the first two rounds of public engagement and said many people he spoke to lacked any familiarity with the infill housing strategy.

Council unanimously amended the engagement plan to include a mass mail-out detailing the proposed infill strategy, with a price tag of $8,000 which will fall within the existing district communications budget.

DIALOG will return to council in September following a third round of engagement in July that includes surveys, installations and video.


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