Sidney residents could learn more about local housing needs as early as this month as a survey of local housing needs approaches its conclusion.
Corey Newcomb, Sidney’s senior manager for long range planning, said the consultant hired to assess local housing needs is expected to complete the project in late September or early October 2019.
Sidney hired Urban Matters CCC on June 25 as part of Official Community Plan (OCP) review, with the price tag being $28,870 (plus GST). A provincial grant worth $20,000 will cover two-thirds of the overall project.
Newcomb said the housing assessment promises to break new ground. “To my knowledge Sidney has not done a formal Housing Needs Assessment (HNA) on its own before,” he said. “However, in 2016 the Town did participate in a joint Saanich Peninsula HNA. Participants in that project were Sidney, North Saanich and Central Saanich, and the project was jointly funded by the CRD, BC Housing and CMHC.”
The report found a gap between supply and demand.
“Households with a low to moderate income ($30,000 to $49,999 per year) represent 17.6 per cent of the population of the [Peninsula] while housing options associated with this category only account for 1.6 per cent of the housing supply,” it reads, adding that many households falling into this category may be living off fixed incomes and own their own homes.
Looking at this issue from the other end of the income spectrum, the reports finds 85 per cent of available housing stock requires a high income, yet just 30 per cent of the household earns enough to afford such housing.
To put this into raw numbers, the region has an excess supply of more 7,000 “high-income” housing units, and a shortage of 7,695 units for income levels below that. This shortage appears most acute for individuals with low incomes, low to moderate incomes, and moderate incomes, with a total shortage of 5,614 units.
The report also notes methodological gaps. “The lack of reliable and accurate rental market data make it difficult to make any observations based on the income categories associated with the rental market,” it reads. “Based on the rental market data that are available for Sidney, there appears to be a severe under supply of affordable, and market priced rental housing units available on the [Peninsula].”
Newcomb notes that the pending housing assessment responds to provincial legislation requiring housing needs assessments, as part of OCP reviews. Previously, the Local Government Act only required municipalities to include statements in their OCPs respecting “the approximate location, amount, type and density of residential development required to meet anticipated housing needs over a period of at least 5 years,” he said. “So the [province] is now asking municipalities to consider housing needs much more specifically than they did previously.”
Once completed, the report must appear before council in an open meeting with Sidney required to post the report publicly on it website.
Legislation requires municipalities to undertake an HNA every five years.