Affordability is more than the cost of housing, it includes transportation, childcare, food, taxes and utility costs. Victoria must be a place where young families can flourish, where businesses can find workers, where seniors are housing secure, and where working people can afford to live. The Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce #1 priority for 2018 reflects this same thinking. Tinkering with affordability won’t work. We must take bold action.
We need to:
- Take a more creative approach to affordable housing
- Create affordable, convenient, transportation choices that make Victoria a car-optional city
- Create more affordable childcare spaces in the city
- Continue strong fiscal management
What We’ve Accomplished, 2014-2018
- Fast tracked all rental building developments, with over 1000 rental units started—more than what was completed in the last 30 years
- Supplied city-owned land for affordable housing
- Made it faster and less expensive to build garden suites—22 units approved in last year compared to 18 units in last 12 years
- Developed the 2015-2026 Victoria Housing Strategy
- Attracted $90 million dollars for affordable housing in the region
- Created a tenant protection policy and strong protections for renters
- Formed the Childcare Solutions Working Group to increase affordable childcare
Affordability Step 1: Take a more creative approach to affordable housing
Over the past four years, we’ve seen Victoria’s economy get much stronger. There are more jobs here than there are people to do them, the new workers need housing. Victoria is also attracting younger people; our largest age demographic according to the 2016 census is 25-29-year-olds. Soon many of these people will want to start families. Some will want to live in downtown condos – especially if we do a good job as a city of building a vibrant, fun and family-friendly public realm. But some will also want to live in Victoria’s neighbourhoods, because they are great places to live.
Affordability COMMITMENT: We will take bold actions to create more affordable and attainable housing throughout the city
Years one to four: Build at least 2000 new affordable homes in the region including at least 400 units renting at $375 per month and the rest at rents that working people in Victoria can afford
Year one: Implement an Inclusionary Housing and Community Amenity Contribution policy to ensure that all new condo buildings also have affordable rental suites in them.
Year one: Create a zoning mechanism to allow moveable tiny homes in all backyards for rents of no more than $500 per month.
Year one and two: Work with the community to implement “missing middle” housing in all neighbourhoods including exploring gentle density options (triplexes, fourplexes and sixplexes, lot-size dependent) as a right on single family lots with affordability built into the gentle density zone. For more on gentle density please head here to see the great work and detailed information provided by Fairfield residents.
Year one and two: Develop an inventory of city-owned land that can be leased for the long-term to provide affordable housing including the possibility of co-ops and Community Land Trusts.
Year two: Expand the garden suite program to:
- Allow larger garden suites for families on plus size lots (there are 5673 total potential garden suite plus sites in the city)
- Allow garden suites on all lots including duplexes and houses with secondary suites;
- Consider a garden suite grant program in exchange for a rental affordability commitment for 10 years.
Year two: To support “missing middle”, garden suite and secondary suite development by citizen-developers, create a Small-Scale Housing Ambassador to help first-timers through the process and host workshops on the creation of garden suites, secondary suites, and moveable tiny homes.
Year three: Take advantage of federal commitment to co-op housing and work with existing housing co-ops that want to expand through redevelopment and focus on the development of new co-op housing.
Year three: Work with the community to develop a program for people who want to pool existing properties to create Community Land Trusts. A community land trust (CLT) is a nonprofit corporation that develops and stewards affordable housing, community gardens, civic buildings, commercial spaces and other community assets on behalf of a community. “CLTs” balance the needs of individuals to access land and maintain security of tenure with a community’s need to maintain affordability, economic diversity and local access to essential service.
Affordability Step 2: Create affordable, convenient, transportation choices that make Victoria a car-optional city
On average, Canadians spend 15% of our household income owning and operating a car – more than we do on groceries. In our region this runs from 9% to 16%. According to the Canadian Automobile Association, the cost of car ownership for a compact car is approximately $9500 per year. Although transportation is not often thought of as affecting affordability, it clearly does. If we can create a “car-optional” city can put $800 more per month into people pockets that can be spent on rent, groceries, piano lessons etc. We will do this.
Affordability COMMITMENT: We will make transportation more affordable and convenient
Year one: Create a program and funding mechanism – without an increase to property taxes – to give every child in Victoria under 18 free transit. This will save parents $540 per year per child. And it will create the next generation of transit users.
Year one: Expand the “Safe routes to School program” to include education for kids on how to use Transit.
Year one: Continue to work as a member of the Smart South Island Steering Committee to secure $10 million in funding from the federal Smart Cities Challenge to “collaboratively create a multimodal transportation network that is convenient, green and affordable.” See full submission here.
Year two: Attract a “floating car share” service like Evo or Car2Go to Greater Victoria. Floating car share is where you can pick up a car-share car anywhere and drop it off anywhere when you’re finished.
Year two: Create more car share parking spaces on neighbourhood streets and explore neighbourhood-based car sharing options.
Year three: Explore micro-transit on-demand service; like Uber or Lift, but public transit.
Years one to four: Complete 26km all ages and abilities multimodal network including investments in cycling and pedestrian infrastructure to make it safer and more affordable for people to move around the city. By 2022, 75% of Victorians will live within a 2-minute bike ride of the network.
Years one to four: Continue to work as a member of the Victoria Regional Transit Commission to complete the rapid bus lanes from downtown to the Westshore northbound and southbound including the Uptown Exchange.
Affordability Step 3: Create more affordable childcare spaces in the city
In the spring of 2017, I was contacted by non-profit childcare providers worried about the current shortage of childcare spaces and the potential loss of spaces as schools needed to make more room for students in response to the court ruling about classroom sizes.
In response, I convened a “Childcare Solutions Working Group” which has been meeting regularly for the past year. The Working Group is comprised of non-profit childcare providers, a representative from the Province, representatives from Island Health, including the Chief Medical Officer, representatives from the school district, including the Superintendent of School District 61, and the business Community including the CEO of the Chamber of Commerce.
Working collaboratively, the group has identified a number of short medium and long-term solutions that various parties can take responsibility for. Some of what’s been accomplished to date includes:
- A template and funding model for modular buildings on school sites
- Creation of preapproved design standards for new modular childcare facilities so that licensing requirements are met in advance
- Advocacy to the Provincial government to have childcare spaces on all school sites
- Raising awareness of childcare as an economic issue
- Reinforce to the Provincial government that $10 daycare is a key issue for families
- Collaborating with Ministry and Island Health to make licensing more flexible
- Advocating for more training and better pay for childcare staff
Affordability COMMITMENT: We will continue to play a leadership role to convene people and create new childcare spaces
Years one to four: Work with School District 61 and other partners to open at least 300 new childcare spaces in the next four years
Years one to four: Continue the Mayor’s Childcare Solutions working group and develop a future-focussed Childcare Action Plan
Years one to four: Create opportunities for new childcare spaces in new developments
Affordability Step 4: Continue strong fiscal management
When I was elected as mayor, I was given a credit card. I asked, “What is the budget of the Mayor’s office?” No one could tell me, precisely. So I handed back the credit card and asked for it to be locked up until we determined a budget for the Mayor’s office. This is just one example of what I found when I took office. Another is when I was on Council for a term, we used to do the City budget by looking at a 30 or so page PowerPoint presentation in a Committee meeting and then forward it to Council with an opportunity for public comment. Not only did Council not have the details of what they were actually voting on, neither did the public.
As someone with fiscal good sense, I worked with Council and staff to overhaul the budgeting process. Staff now start in July prior to the budget year with a zero-based budgeting approach. In the fall, they present the draft budget to Council and the public. The whole 1000 or so page budget is presented, no longer only a roll up PowerPoint presentation. Then Council goes through the budget, department by department, line item by line item. And we provide this opportunity to the public as well through an extensive budget survey and a e-town hall that people can attend in person, via phone or social media.
In January once all the input has been received Council spends between nine and 12 hours integrating the input, aligning the budget with the Strategic Plan, and making decisions.
Here is a breakdown of tax increases, ratios, and rates for the last 10 years.
Affordability COMMITMENT: We will take taxes and utilities seriously as a cost-driver that impacts affordability for Victorians.
Years one to four: Keep tax increases to a rate of no more than inflation plus one.
Years one to four: Continue with zero-based budgeting.
Years one to four: Continue robust, transparent, participatory approach to budgeting.
Years one to four: Continue to look for alternative sources of revenue to property taxes and utilities. Years one to four: Ensure all major capital projects follow the City of Victoria’s new Project Management Framework and Capital Estimates Policy, both developed as a result of lessons learned from the Johnson Street Bridge Project.