Letter: Housing must be accessible for all of Oak Bay’s residents

District if Oak Bay needs to get busy on a housing plan

Buckle up your seat belts, Oak Bay – the 2017 real estate season has begun.

The Canadian Real Estate magazine (November/December 2016) identified 100 potential communities across Canada for real estate investors to park their money. With respect to Oak Bay, they recommended investment in single-family homes.

As an Oak Bay resident, the most troubling advice from the editors is the assertion that, “Oak Bay is a small, sustainable community, and its leaders aim to keep it that way. There are no major development plans and very little in the way of infill housing…”

A community owned by investors is not my vision. In case you have not noticed, the investors are already here.

So while the voices against “densification” in Oak Bay are loud whenever any changes are proposed, I suggest that without protection and planned change, we will actually “de-densify.”

To remain a vibrant and sustainable community we need people – people who want to live here, work here, pay taxes and raise their children here.

Our Official Community Plan contemplated a housing strategy with complementary zoning bylaw changes. Three years after its passage, we do not yet have either.

It is quite simple if thought about from a life cycle approach.

Young people need inexpensive housing when attending school and getting started in their careers.

Young couples need affordable places to live when they are starting out in life so they can get careers underway and save for first homes.

Young families need safe, affordable homes.

Established families do live here. We have lovely single-family homes to house them. Replacing older single-family homes with new homes is likely to continue.

And for the seniors who want to remain in the community, we have apartments and condos and one-level bungalows.

My vision for Oak Bay includes young people, families, retirees and seniors. So here’s a simple plan:

Immediate term (six months to one year)

• Immediately implement measures that will enhance affordability in our existing stock.

• Place a moratorium on closing down existing secondary suites until new housing strategy is in place.

• Ensure newly built single-family homes meet the building code for suites should the new owners wish to include a suite in their plans.

• Introduce zoning bylaw changes now to allow legal non-conforming duplexes to be converted to freehold.

• Develop municipal plan to limit use of Oak Bay homes for short-term rental such as VRBO and Airbnb

Medium term (six months to two years)

• Develop guidelines for Heritage Conversion to strata title homes in large heritage homes.

• Increase number of heritage and older character homes (pre-1950) on our official Community Heritage Register.

• Create a comprehensive process for review of demolition permit applications. Include tree replacement and recycling requirements as well as fees for waste management when such applications are approved.

• Create local grants program to enable updating of older character homes for safety and livability.

Longer term (one to three years)

• Consult the community and our five or so neighbourhoods on these various forms of housing using the OCP as a starting point.

• Build the overall housing plan using neighbourhood input and planning expertise to complete the plan..Vet plans as they are developed through municipal committees (APC, ADP, Heritage Commission, Parks, etc.)

These are not new ideas and the list is not comprehensive, but we have to get going before we find ourselves in a situation we should have anticipated but did not act upon.

Jan Mears

Oak Bay