It's a familiar story that has the statistics to back it up. Greater Victoria as a region is one of the safest places in Canada, but the downtown core in the City of Victoria faces challenges that require urgent attention.
A report released this week by Statistics Canada shows Greater Victoria has a Crime Severity Index of 71.5, which is less than the national average. However, there is a huge discrepancy between municipalities. With a CSI of 148, Victoria is an outlier compared to the region's other municipalities.
“If there’s any region that could benefit from amalgamation or a regional police force, it would be the Capital Regional District, given that we have the makeup of so many smaller agencies and the Victoria Police Department is carrying the lion’s share of the workload,” VicPD police Chief Del Manak told the Times Colonist.
The Chamber continues to call for Better Regional Services and Safe Communities as fundamental requirements for building good business and great community for all.
A proposal to add at least 180 units of affordable housing in Vic West has been made in an effort to help our region's housing crisis. The owners of Bayview Place have offered to donate $15 million to the Greater Victoria Housing Society for an 18-storey building. The property is on the corner of Catherine Street and Esquimalt Road.
Bayview Place is currently working to build new housing on land around the historic E&N Roundhouse.
A Governance Review by MNP LLP has outlined a number of recommendations to improve the work being done by the City of Victoria council.
The report unveiled a high level of unhappiness with the job being done by council, with 81% of respondents saying they were dissatisfied (21%) or very dissatisfied (60%) with governance.
"The Chamber supports positive change in governance to enable good business and great community for all. We commend the city for taking a long look in the mirror and hope that other municipalities do the same to find better efficiencies," Chamber CEO Bruce Williams said. "We agree with MNP's recommendations, which aim to keep meetings on track and more accessible to busy people who want to have a say in council's decisions."
The report comes ahead of scheduled municipal elections in October, and The Chamber will reach out to the new council to encourage them to make positive changes.
Changes are coming to one of downtown Victoria's most celebrated boulevards. The City of Victoria has been working on a redesign of Government Street, which has retained much of its streetscape for 50 years.
Last week, Victoria's Committee of the Whole set a date to vote on approving the redesign for July 28. The Chamber worked with members and partner organizations to provide input on the proposal.
"Government Street is an attraction for residents from around our region and visitors to our destination," Chamber CEO Bruce Williams said. "Investing in a refresh helps build economic resilience, but we'd like to see the businesses that have made Government Street so attractive steer this project to make sure it has the best chance of success."
Concerns over inflation and the resulting increase in interest rates sparked by the Bank of Canada have worked to cool down housing sales in our region. The Victoria Real Estate Board's latest statistical analysis shows 35% fewer homes were sold in June compared to the same month last year. There are more listings on the market allowing it to settle into a more typical pace than the frenzied conditions experienced during the pandemic.
However, the benchmark value for homes continued to increase to $1,464,400 in June from $1,446,400 in May.
"It may seem counterintuitive to continue to talk about the need for supply at a time when inventory is rising," VREB President Dinnie-Smyth said in a news release. "We must keep the conversation alive, and we urge all levels of government to continue to aggressively address the housing supply situation. We need more supply of all types of housing."
A lack of housing supply is a major factor in the challenge many employers face finding and keeping workers.
“We are always advocating for more affordable housing and housing supply, as well as security and sustainability in supply chains to get the needed materials in place to create housing,” Chamber CEO Bruce Williams told the Times Colonist.
Housing supply is foundational to a strong economy, and The Chamber applauds progress being made on the largest housing supply project ever on Vancouver Island. The $250 million Nigel Valley development in the District of Saanich will add 800 homes to the region, including 440 non-market rental units and 255 market homes. The other units include social housing with supports.
“It's amazing what can happen when multiple stakeholders, including our local community associations, take a collaborative and proactive approach to challenges like housing," Saanich Mayor Fred Haynes said in a news release. "This project caters to a wide range of housing needs in Saanich and I look forward to seeing how it will enhance our community over the years to come.”
BC Housing is contributing more than $50 million, and Broadmead Care and Island Health are each providing more more than $5 million.
The Nigel Valley redevelopment, near Saanich's municipal hall, is being done in three phases over the next 10 years.
It's hard to disagree with the latest ranking that places the City of Victoria atop a list of the best small cities in Canada.
"With its mild year-round climate and an artisanal, independent spirit at play among rainforests and Pacific beaches, Victoria is the hometown you never knew you coveted," Bestcities.org states. "But you’d better bring cash. And (please!) some young kids."
Victoria's compact and vibrant downtown and craft beer scene helps the city rank high for its nightlife but the capital gets strikes against it for the lowest birth rate of any Canadian city and a dearth of housing.
Also on the list is the District of Saanich, at 23, for being "smart, sustainable and self-sufficient" and the "urban heart" of Vancouver Island.
Democracy, as Winston Churchill famously said, is the worst form of government other than every other system ever attempted.
With civic elections set for this October, many people are considering running for election. To help give potential candidates the info they need to understand what's possible — and what isn't — if they're elected, The Chamber hosted a virtual seminar with municipal governance expert Allison Habkirk. She has more than 30-years experience in local government as an employee, an elected official and as an educator.
Municipal councils make decisions that literally affect the street we live on. They can play a huge role in the success of your neighbourhood’s businesses so investing in providing them the right info to make them successful needs to be a priority.