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LETTER: The time to build the missing middle is now

The CRD is at a crossroads. The cost of buying and renting has ballooned beyond the reach of many citizens. City officials now have a choice to make – continue with the status quo or build out the “missing middle.”

Though there are many causes of the current crisis, municipal governments shoulder much of the blame as zoning prioritizes single-family homes. Building a single-family home in Victoria, for example, only needs city staff approval, but building a townhome or triplex calls for a 10-step process that often takes more than a year.

A future where the status quo continues will result in a city populated by the very rich, in single-family neighborhoods, and the very poor, in subsidized housing. Everyone else will continue to leave the region. Instead of preserving neighbourhood character, the status quo will destroy it. In place of vibrant neighbourhoods full of inter-generational families, our streets won’t have kids playing on them and our seniors will age without family nearby. Slowly, the city’s stock of character-rich single-family homes will be torn down and rebuilt as modern mansions. Regionally, our forests will fall to development as the city expands outward too.

Alternatively, elected officials could build out the missing middle. To do this, our neighbourhoods should be rezoned, giving multi-family developments the same legal status as single-family homes.

A future allowing densification will result in an inclusive, sustainable, and vibrant city. Children can play on our streets and inter-generational families can live in the same neighbourhoods, allowing seniors to watch their grandchildren grow up and age in place with family support. Instead of modern mansions dominating the landscape, there would be a mix of single-family homes, townhomes, and triplexes. The denser CRD would better address climate change too by increasing the viability of local amenities and improving walkability and bikeability.

The CRD is at a crossroads. Though some may prefer the status quo, many would like to live in a vibrant city where most people can afford to live. To make this future a reality, the time to build the missing middle is now.

Philip MacKellar

Victoria