Creating A City of Opportunities
1. Grow a strong local and regional economy
Victoria is a hub of tech, tourism, government, marine industry, and our social enterprise sector is growing rapidly. Victoria is also a place with local food, beer and coffee scenes that are growing rapidly and two First Nations that are on the move with community economic development. And, Victoria is a place brimming with innovation. City Hall has an important role to play in nurturing local prosperity.
In addition, Victoria needs to play a leadership role in regional economic development. The current approach to regional economic development is fragmented and competitive. Working in collaboration, the region’s municipalities can be more than the sum of their parts and can create long-term prosperity for our residents.
COMMITMENT: Take a leadership role in economic development
- Year one: Appoint a Mayor’s Economic Development Cabinet to advise on the creation of a Victoria Economic Development Office and business plan for sustainable funding to this office. Staff the office with people who understand both the city’s processes and the private sector. Set clear timelines and measurables for growing the economy. Measure success. Start-up funding for this office will come from the City’s Economic Development Reserve Fund.
- Years two to four: Create and implement a regional economic development brand and plan. Work with mayors from across the region to establish a Mayor’s Caucus with a focus on regional economic development. Develop a shared understanding of the roles that existing economic development agencies and Chambers of Commerce play in regional economic development. Leverage the strengths and assets of each municipality – this will lead to the whole region being more than the sum of its parts. Creating a regional body and funding mechanism to develop a regional brand and to carry out the regional economic development plan.
- Ongoing: Support the tech, tourism sectors and social enterprise sectors by continuing to build a vibrant downtown with businesses that provide top-notch goods and services. Work closely and collaboratively with Tourism Victoria and others to promote Victoria as a destination market that provides authentic, meaningful experiences to tourists. Tourism supports and grows local business.
- Ongoing: Break down silos between sectors and play a collaborative, convening role to bring together a diversity of people and organizations to co-create opportunities.
- Ongoing: Work with the Songhees and Esquimalt Nations on First Nations led economic development initiatives, including naming one member of each nation to the Mayor’s Economic Development Cabinet. The two Nations are key partners to the City of Victoria economically and culturally and play an important role in the history, present and future of the City and the region.
2. Increase well-paying jobs and take care of vulnerable residents
Victoria is a great place to live but it’s unaffordable. Fifty percent of Victorians make $27,000 per year or less. Young people have a hard time making a living and finding an affordable place to settle down. Older people are finding it harder to retire here. People who are already homeless or marginally housed face long wait lists. And the Victoria Police spend 25% of their time doing policing work and 75% of their time on social issues. When people are stressed and struggling they have a hard time creating opportunities. City Hall has a responsibility to address this.
COMMITMENT: Create a positive context for job creation
- First six months: Improve City’s processes and reduce processing time. Measure current processing times for building permits, development permits, rezonings, and other business processes. Identify and address obstacles and reduce processing times. Identify acceptable processing times (with all parties affected) and meet them consistently and predictably. Continuously incorporate input from residents and businesses in order to co-design solutions to improve processes.
- Year one: Make City Hall open for business. Create an Enterprise Facilitator position in the Economic Development Office to support people who want to open or re-locate a business in Victoria, with special attention to start-ups and young entrepreneurs.
- Year Three: Develop a business plan for the establishment of a business incubator downtown in partnership with the University of Victoria, Royal Roads University, and Camosun College, and Victoria’s own leading social incubator, The Dock with a specific focus on social enterprises (both for-profit and non-profit), green and clean technologies, which supports leading-edge business innovation, and breakthrough solutions more generally. Develop venture capital / angel investor strategy to attract investment.
- Ongoing: Task Economic Development Office with attracting tech, green economy and knowledge-based businesses to Victoria. Look to other places (Bend Oregon, Austin Texas, others) for attraction strategies. Work with UVic, Camosun and Royal Roads on the skills, qualifications and job needs of their graduates.
COMMITMENT: Take care of vulnerable residents
- Year two: Develop business case for an Affordable Housing Tax Exemptionwhere property owners would commit to designating 10 percent of their units as rent affordable (i.e. not more than $550 per month) for a period of 10 years and receive a corresponding property that offsets the lost rent and leaves a bit of money in the landlords pocket at the end of the day. The City would work in partnership to build support for this initiative in other municipalities in the region.
- Year three: Explore innovation in affordable housing including shipping container developments, tiny homes, and opportunities for rent-to-own or other programs to make home-ownership more affordable for first-time buyers.
- Ongoing: Continue to partner with non-profit housing providers to provide funding for new housing through the City of Victoria’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund. The fund is currently budgeted at $250,000 per year, which leverages $1.4 million for every $10,000 per unit the City contributes.
- Year Three: Review yearly contribution to City of Victoria’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund and increase if possible based on demand from non-profit housing providers and availability of new revenue.
- Ongoing: Work with with Island Health and other partners to help ensure that those with mental health and addictions have access to services with dignity including a safe consumption site, harm reduction supplies, supportive housing and treatment.
3. Steward the natural environment and build a liveable city
Prosperity and opportunity are more than just economic notions. The City’s natural places are both beautiful and essential to the health and well-being of our residents. In order to live rich, full lives, Victorians need access to green spaces, walking and cycling infrastructure and public transit. Walkable, bikeable, liveable streets contribute to quality of life and connectedness.
COMMITMENT: Protect existing green spaces and create new ones
- Year one: Develop pocket parks in appropriate parking spaces on city streets.Work with Downtown Victoria Business Association to hold a small-scale pocket park design contest that engages local artists and residents interested in placemaking and urban design.
- Year two: Develop a “sharing boulevards” program/app modeled on Lifecycles Project Society Sharing Backyards Program to match aspiring gardeners with available boulevards.
- Year three: Explore creation of rooftop gardens program in partnership with building and development community.
- Ongoing: Oppose the expansion of tanker traffic in coastal waters. An oil spill would devastate the City’s natural coastline and paralyze the local economy.
COMMITMENT: Improve active transportation networks
- Year one: Update the City of Victoria’s Bicycle Masterplan including clear timelines, deliverables and budget to deliver results. Studies show a link between cycling infrastructure upgrades and increased ridership and increased ridership and increased health and well-being.
- Year two: Adopt a Complete Streets approach to all capital investments in transportation.
- Year two: Create a participatory budgeting process for transportation infrastructure to ensure City spending reflects the values and desires of residents.
- Year three: Ensure 20-Year Capital Budget allocates resources to meet the City’s long-term active transportation goals that 1.) By 2041, 70% of trips to work will be by bike, walking or transit; 2) by 2041, 60% of all trips will be by bike, walking or transit.
4. Nurture our Creative City
From Ballet Victoria and the symphony to Rifflandia and Buskers Festival, from the Victoria Art Gallery to Open Space and the Ministry of Casual Living, to emerging artists working away in Chinatown lofts, to much more than meets the eye, Victoria is a creative city. Arts and culture nourish the human spirit, create economic opportunity and make a city vibrant.
COMMITMENT: Grow the arts and culture sectors.
- Year one: Appoint a Mayor’s Creative City Cabinet with people from a diversity of backgrounds in the arts and culture community to advise on how City Hall can help to unleash the potential of Victoria’s creatives.
- Year three to four: Create an Arts and Culture Masterplan to guide the future of arts and culture in the City for the next 20 years.