The John Howard Society will own and operate a new affordable housing development at 736 Princess Ave., after Victoria council approved a total of 72 new housing units for low-income and vulnerable residents.
The Princess Avenue location will provide 28 new units, as well as amenities such as a coffee shop and art gallery that will facilitate an employment readiness program.
Council's decision, made last Thursday, also includes 44 new units at 330 Michigan St. The Capital Regional Housing Corporation will retain an existing heritage building on the site and demolish three other buildings to create room for two four-storey multi-familiy buildings. The new buildings will increase the number of affordable units from 62 to 106 on the site.
Voters in Victoria will soon find out who is on the ballot for the city's Dec. 12 by-election. The candidate nomination period opened yesterday, and closes Nov. 6.
The by-election was rescheduled after its original date in April was cancelled due to the pandemic. Any candidates who were previously nominated will need to go through the process again if they still plan to seek election. Candidate nomination forms are available by calling Victoria City Hall at 250-361-0571 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, visit victoria.ca/election.
As soon as candidates are confirmed, The Chamber will provide our members with opportunities to find out where council hopefuls stand on issues of importance to the business community.
After a spike in the number of cases of COVID-19 in Surrey, all regions of BC are being asked to take extra precautions.
Dr. Bonnie Henry issued a new order on Monday, limiting gatherings within private homes and urging businesses to review their COVID-19 safety plans. Our understanding of this disease has changed since many plans were implemented in the summer, and, as we enter flu and cold season, it's timely to update protocols.
Dr. Henry also says she expects British Columbians to wear masks in indoor public spaces when around people outside your bubble.
There have been a couple of developments this week regarding housing for people who are homeless in downtown Victoria. On Monday, Victoria council passed a bylaw limiting the size and location of temporary shelters in the city. The change will mean fewer people in encampments, and prohibit tents within 50 metres of schools.
Council also expanded the list of parks where camping is prohibited, and, announced that, 30 days after the provincial state of emergency ends, people will no longer be allowed to camp during the day. The rule is already in place but has been suspended during the pandemic.
As well, according to reports, BC Housing has said it won't be extending its agreement to house people in Save-On-Foods Memorial Arena after Sept. 30. People who have been sheltering in the arena will move into newly renovated lodging at Paul's Motor Inn, which the province announced it had purchased in June.
The Chamber is a strong supporter of BC Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, and we are proud of all our members who have dutifully followed her advice.
Among those are many of our restaurants, pubs and cafes that have gone above and beyond to keep their customers and our community safe. Which is why we share concerns expressed by the BC Restaurant and Foodservices Association, through the Business Technical Advisory Panel (Liquor Policy). On Sept. 8, Dr. Henry verbally ordered the closure of bars and banquet halls, and called for liquor sales to end by 10 pm (among a list of restrictions).
For many operators, money earned in the last few hours of the evening is the difference between being able to make ends meet and shutting down the business.
A more effective approach would be to address specific situations and enforce problematic behaviour. As the panel's letter notes, why punish a business providing wine to a couple in Victoria on a late-night date because a small group of people in Vancouver are breaking the rules?
The Greater Victoria School District (SD61) has a Return to School Plan ready to go as students head back into classrooms.
The school district is following the BC Ministry of Education's restart plan, which focuses on the safety of students and staff while trying to give kids as much in-class instruction as possible. To help with the extra level of planning needed this year, the federal government is providing BC with $242.4 million to implement COVID-19 protocols for child care, transportation, health and safety and learning supports.
There's no question anxiety levels have been heightened during the pandemic, and the provincial government is spending an additional $2 million on school-based wellness programs. If it means fewer people suffering from mental health issues in the years ahead, it will have been an invaluable investment.
To help families manage back to school stress and anxiety, The Chamber is also happy to give a shout out to Telus for hosting two seminars by clinical counselor Lindsay Killam. You can get more details and register for the Sept. 10 or Sept. 14 event here.
It's a critical time for families in British Columbia as we learn to live with COVID-19, and continue to work on restarting our economy. The Chamber encourages everyone to follow the most current advice of BC Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry. There is less uncertainty around COVID-19 than there was in the spring, and efforts to slow transmission are much more focused — as detailed in today's announcement of a $1.6 billion plan for the fall and winter.
The provincial government paid $1.8 million for a property at 1176 Yates St. that will be used to provide up to 40 units of housing for homeless people in Greater Victoria. The homes will include support for mental health and addiction treatment.
Homelessness is a complex issue that requires a multi-faceted approach. The Chamber is focusing our ongoing advocacy on the need to improve mental health services that are often at the root of homelessness. We need to move beyond encampments that provide shelter but don't address underlying concerns.
Yesterday, citing extensive work of contract tracers, the provincial government ordered all nightclubs and stand-alone banquet halls to close.
“Despite weeks of effort by public health teams, these venues are creating significant risk to everyone in BC, and making it more challenging to protect those who are most vulnerable to serious illness," says a statement by Health Minister Adrian Dix and Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.
The new order also states that liquor sales in bars, pubs and restaurants must cease at 10 pm. And unless they provide a full meal service, they need to close by 11 pm.
How do we get back to feeling safe in our communities?
It’s clear that we have a growing problem with encampments in downtown Victoria and in many parks throughout the region. Crime statistics also show that there has been an increase in property crimes and incidents requiring the police. There are reasons that many people in Victoria report they’re feeling less safe living and working in their community.
The issue is becoming more prominent for many Chamber members, and we are working with decision makers to push for real solutions.
“There are a number of pillars that need to be in place for all of us to feel safe in our day-to-day lives,” Chamber CEO Bruce Williams said. “Housing is the obvious one, and a lot of work has gone into finding long-term homes for people living in camps or on the streets. However, one area that we’re lacking is adequate care for people with mental health issues and addictions. Many people want help, but the nature of their illness makes them defensive of their circumstances and keeps them stuck in a cycle of despair. Unfortunately, this leaves many people vulnerable to predators who sell drugs or deal in stolen goods.”
Williams spoke with VicPD police chief Del Manak this week about how his department is stepping up enforcement, as well as how health professionals can help people whose homelessness is rooted in mental illness. A key component of this will be increasing the capacity of facilities that can provide adequate rehabilitation for addiction.
It’s also important to recognize that Greater Victoria is not alone in dealing with an opioid crisis concurrently with affordable housing concerns and a pandemic. We need to learn from success stories and avoid the policy pitfalls that have plagued other regions.
The District of Saanich is continuing to explore a longstanding plan to create a municipal hub along the Uptown Douglas corridor.
On Monday night, Saanich council asked staff to clarify a few items before sending the proposal to public hearing. The plan looks at the potential use of a 155-hectare area for the next several decades. The goal is to make the gateway to Greater Victoria's core a catalyst for housing, transportation and economic development. Saanich Mayor said he expects staff to report back with their findings next month.