Sidney mayor says it will take time for housing to become affordable, but also cites progress

Cliff McNeil-Smith declined to comment on whether previous councils set wrong priorities

Sidney Mayor Cliff McNeil-Smith said the lack of affordable housing in Sidney will not change overnight, but said steps are already underway.

“Staff and I myself have had meetings with these [regional, provincial and federal housing] agencies, and we have been meeting with developers, so that they have an awareness of what our needs are in the community in terms of purpose-built rentals and affordable, and what the options to try to bring affordable rentals into the picture,” he said.

Recent examples include Aranza development with 58 rentals including 28 below-market units approved by the previous council and a rental housing development with 71 units approved by the current council, he said. “That proponent is in discussions with B.C. Housing to look at the possibility of bringing affordable units into that development. These will be the next successes we will have to look towards.”

McNeil-Smith made these comments after councillors meeting as committee-of-the-whole had received the housing assessment report the Sidney had commissioned as mandated by the provincial government as part of its Official Community Plan (OCP) review.

RELATED: New report finds many Sidney residents struggle with housing affordability

The report finds among other points that Sidney’s rental vacancy rate has been zero for years and that local real estate has been unaffordable for all but a few groups because incomes have failed to catch up with rising housing.

McNeil-Smith said that rents have gone up 43 per cent over the decade between 2008 and 2018. “Wouldn’t it be nice if our or my income won’t increase by the same amount,” he said.

Sidney has also seen changing demographics. He said Sidney has been facing an “unprecedented demand” in recent years from individuals, who want to downsize from larger homes to condominiums in retiring to the community, among the oldest in British Columbia. At the same, Sidney has a sizable business community with employees, who need affordable housing.

The report notes that this combination of economic and demographic factors has created housing catering to wealthier individuals. In fact, it has created an oversupply of high-end condominiums at the moment, while most Sidney residents are struggling to find affordable housing.

RELATED:Greater Victoria has zero affordable neighbourhoods for full-time workers earning minimum wage

This fact, of course, raises the question of whether previous council set the wrong priorities. McNeil-Smith said he won’t comment on the decisions of previous councils. “They had each project come before at the time, and those were the projects that they approved,” he said.

He had said earlier that in a free-market economy with high land prices, developers will invest in projects that promise the most return. “We have zoning in place,” he said. “Our zoning does not say you have to build a rental [development] here and a strata [condominium] there. The challenge is communicating to developers that these are needs and we need to provide incentives, and these are within the recommendations of the report.”

McNeil-Smith said it is too early which of the 29 recommendations Sidney will adopt as the report has just landed before council. Looking at the bigger picture, it is not clear when housing will become more affordable in the community.

McNeil-Smith said these housing pressures have developed over time and it will take on-going efforts by this council and future councils.

“It’s changing gradually, and hopefull will continue to change,” he said. “We are not going to get a three to five per cent vacancy rate in a year.”

The larger economy, with its cycles, will also play a role in helping conditions.

“With this present over-supply of the higher market condos, some of the projects may not proceed. I cannot tell you which ones, but given the market condition, that is a scenario and there is one significant development that was planning to open up strata condos that is seriously considering opening as rentals.”

When asked about the development, he said he was not at liberty to reveal it.


Like us on Facebook and follow @wolfgang_depner

wolfgang.depner@peninsulanewsreview.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

PHOTOS: Small crowd gathers to watch 231-tonne stacker-reclaimer load onto barge crane

The Dynamic Beast barge crane, known for work with Johnson Street Bridge, makes a return

National Drug Drop-Off month aims to reduce substance abuse by house-bound youth

Expert says there is misconception prescribed medication is safe to take

Saanich Peninsula Hospital Auxiliary hosts pop-up fundraiser in Sidney

Temporary store to feature unique hand made gifts, collectibles, clothing, books and more

Victoria mayor wants newspaper boxes removed from downtown streets

Mayor Lisa Helps says the boxes are not needed, often filled with garbage

Esquimalt artists take to great outdoors amid coronavirus

Group invites budding, or just willing artists, to join at Saxe Point

Crews work overnight to try to put out wildfire on Pender Island

Fire department and B.C. Wildfire Service crews extinguishing fire in ‘extremely difficult terrain’

Crews work overnight to try to put out wildfire on Pender Island

Fire department and B.C. Wildfire Service crews extinguishing fire in ‘extremely difficult terrain’

Michael Buble among 13 British Columbians to receive Order of B.C.

Ceremony will be delayed to 2021 due to COVID-19

U.S. border communities feel loss of Canadian tourists, shoppers and friends

Restrictions on non-essential travel across the Canada-U.S. border have been in place since March 2`

Rollout of COVID-19 Alert app faces criticism over accessibility

App requires users to have Apple or Android phones made in the last five years, and a relatively new operating system

Alleged impaired driver sparks small wildfire near Lytton after crash: B.C. RCMP

Good Samaritans prevented the blaze from getting out of control

B.C. First Nation adopts ‘digital twinning’ software to better manage territory

Software allows users to visualize what a mountain might look like if the trees on its slopes were logged

Most Read