Council defers discussion on housing priorities

Residents ask council to focus on creating a housing strategy, before infill or suites

Develop a housing strategy first, say a handful of residents who spoke during the public input portion of Monday’s council meeting.

Council, however, opted to shift the topic to a special meeting in hopes of having all council members present as Coun. Eric Zhelka missed the meeting due to illness.

While council returned a series of priorities to staff for more work heading into estimates, or budget, meetings next month, a series of housing project possibilities continues to be contentious for council and were deferred for more discussion.

During the previous meeting, the housing topics were pushed to the Feb. 27 meeting because two councillors were away. That consensus continued with Zhelka away Monday, however, with pending holidays, scheduling a date proved challenging.

On Feb. 14, council deferred consideration of four strategic priority actions for the draft 2017-18 plan: undertake the regulation of secondary suites; consider undertaking the development appropriate for existing legal nonconforming duplexes; undertake the necessary data gathering needed to consider the benchmarks in the OCP and other data used to help define and initiate a Housing Strategy for Oak Bay; and retain consultant to work with staff and council to determine the benefits, costs and feasibility of implementing Development Cost Charges and a Community Amenity Contribution Policy to assist in funding future infrastructure required to service new growth.

A handful of those who spoke during public input asked council to prioritize a housing strategy above legalization of secondary suites or duplexes.

“Developing a housing strategy, including the key interlock components of regulating secondary suites, addressing duplexes and infill will require delicate balancing of many competing interests. To develop a suites strategy with only a vague idea of infill and duplex objectives … would require the wisdom of Solomon,” said Mike Wilmot. “I urge council to choose data collection and housing strategy as their top priority.”

He also suggested the “crumbling infrastructure” of Oak Bay as the “elephant in the room.”

Another speaker pushed council to consider infrastructure over any of the potential housing projects.

Resident Jan Mears applauded the efforts of council to provide varied housing in the community.

“It’s people that make community, it isn’t houses,” Mears said.

Council plans to hold a special meeting April 5 to discuss the potential priorities prior to estimates meetings April 12 and April 19.