Greater Victoria saw a jump in the value of residential permits in September compared to the same month last year.
The total value of residential permits in September was $203.8 million, compared to $175.9 million in September 2022.
The region also posted a 134% jump from August, which saw $87.1 million worth of residential permits issued. Across Canada, the total monthly value of residential permits increased 4.3% to $7.2 billion in September, led by a 37.2% monthly increase in construction intentions in British Columbia.
The new building permits account for 21,700 new dwelling units nationwide, 5.6% more than August 2023 and 2.3% more than September 2022.
The targets are now official for three Greater Victoria municipalities deemed to be among the top 10 BC communities with the most pressing housing needs.
The Housing Supply Act requires the following number of new homes within five years:
“These targets are a step toward creating more homes to meet the diverse housing needs of Saanich residents,” Saanich Mayor Dean Murdock said in the province's news release. “We are committed to working together with the Province on housing solutions, and welcome their support to help us achieve our goals.”
After six months, and every year thereafter, municipalities will be evaluated on their progress.
A second cohort of eight to 10 municipalities will be selected by the end of the year.
An adequate housing supply directly supports a robust workforce, which is critical for employers' efforts to find and keep staff. Reducing red tape at the municipal level is one of the keys. Investing in efficiencies is another, which is why The Chamber supports last week's news that funding will help local governments improve their development-approval processes.
The province has $61-million in capacity funding to be distributed over three years.
Housing supply is emerging as the root of many challenges facing Greater Victoria and the economy of Canada as a whole. To try and address some of the foundational causes of a lack of housing, the Community Social Planning Council has released a toolkit for local government. Local Government Levers for Housing Affordability addresses how housing affects everything from "staffing shortages to wage pressure to homelessness."
The document gathers policy tools that have been used successfully by large and small municipalities across the country.
Creating more housing supply is key to making Greater Victoria more economically sustainable. Employers need staff, and employees need to be able to afford where they live. With homes in high demand in our region, we need all levels of government to be part of the solution.
The Chamber applauds the recent decision by the District of Saanich to create more homes in the municipality. The New Small Apartment Infill Zone will allow single-family lots to be redeveloped as multi-unit apartments. There are guidelines to ensure the zoning is used on appropriate lots.
“We have heard that there’s an interest in building these in Saanich,” Saanich Mayor Dean Murdoch told the Times Colonist. “We’ve got a very large university and college campuses in Saanich and there’s a desire to build housing types like this that would serve that student population.”
The latest report from the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation shows an increase in new homes being built in Greater Victoria. That's good news, as The Chamber continues to advocate for changes to regulations and investment in strategies that increase housing supply. We need homes that are affordable to workers because Greater Victoria's employers desperately need employees.
CMHC numbers show housing starts in our region were up 32.6% year over year. There were 1,088 housing starts from January to March, compared to 820 starts for the same period in 2022. The report shows that most of the new starts are condos and apartments as fewer single detached homes are being built.
The City of Langford accounts for 537 of the new starts. The City of Victoria is home to 240 new starts and the Township of Esquimalt has 157.
It's too early to forecast whether the increase will be sustained over the course of the year, as high interest rates impact investment.
The report is also an indicator that some municipalities in our region are not creating their fair share of housing supply. Recent initiatives by the provincial government could help unlock potential housing in these areas.
The Chamber's 160th annual general meeting took place April 18 at the Inn at Laurel Point.
After making sure operations and financials were in order, members in attendance were treated to a frank discussion with BC's Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon. Chamber CEO Bruce Williams emceed the session and asked about the provincial government's plan to increase housing supply.
The minister noted that legislation had been introduced that morning that will help projects avoid time-consuming delays.
Among other topics was a discussion about the need to remove barriers for skilled workers coming here from other countries and provinces. Delays in the recognition of credentials has been an ongoing concern for newcomers wanting to work in their chosen professions. Minister Kahlon encouraged The Chamber to continue advocating for change, noting the message is being heard. He pointed to efforts to increase BC's health care workforce that are beginning to pay off.
Also discussed were increasing student housing to free up rental properties for workers, strategies to house the homeless and using public land to build non-market housing following models that have proven successful elsewhere.
"The Chamber is grateful to Minister Kahlon for sharing his time with our members to talk about the many challenges facing housing in Greater Victoria and the province," Chamber CEO Bruce Williams said. "This year's annual general meeting was the 160th time we've reported to our members and we are working to make sure the next 12 months are successful for our organization, for all our member businesses and for everyone in our community."
Rethinking governance in Greater Victoria has been a popular topic of coffee shops, talk radio and opinion columns for decades. The Chamber has long advocated for better regional services and we're happy to see the Citizens' Assembly process back on track between the City of Victoria and the District of Saanich.
On Monday, the mayors of Saanich and Victoria as well as two councillors from each municipality met to talk about next steps. The municipalities and the provincial government are splitting the $750,000 cost of holding a Citizens' Assembly.
The assembly will have 27 people from Saanich and 21 from Victoria based on population. Ideally, it will also be representative of the municipalities' demographics regarding gender and age as well as the ratio of renters vs. homeowners and Indigenous population.
A progress report is due at the end of this year.
Almost everyone enjoys having the sun stick around a little longer in the evening. However, the switch to Daylight Savings Time this Sunday also creates challenges for many employers dealing with tired staff adjusting to the shift in routine.
WorkSafeBC issued a reminder that the change can create real risks for workers who drive for a living.
“Fatigue is a type of impairment that reduces mental and physical performance,” Road Safety at Work program director Trace Acres said, noting people who drive for work could be more at risk of crashing as body clocks take time to catch up with alarm clocks. “Research shows (fatigue) is a contributing factor in about 20% of crashes.”
Road Safety at Work suggests employers make sure their drivers know their responsibilities and procedures to deal with fatigue. The goal is to avoid risk by ensuring adequate breaks for fresh air, sticking to daylight hours when possible and scheduling outside of peak-accident time of 3 to 6 pm.
The Chamber has advocated for an end to shifting clocks and helped convince the provincial government to survey British Columbians. The result showed 93% support for stopping the twice-annual time change. To avoid cross-border confusion, BC has said it's now waiting for the Pacific US states to get federal approval to also put a permanent end to the switch.
A $204.8-million contract has been awarded for a major project that will see the Royal BC Museum build an important new facility in the City of Colwood.
Construction is expected to begin this summer on the museum's Collections and Research Building as part of a long-term plan to protect the Province’s collections, including more than seven million artifacts and the BC Archives. Total capital project costs for the building are valued at more than $270 million. The project is being undertaken in consultation with the Songhees Nation and Esquimalt Nation.
The state-of-the-art facility will be 163,611 square feet and use mass timber construction to safely house the Province’s collections, BC Archives and research departments. There will also be dedicated research labs and learning spaces.
“Alongside the safe and modern storage of the collections and provincial records, the (Collections and Research Building) will be a dynamic and welcoming community space,” RBCM CEO said Alicia Dubois said. “We hope to inspire future paleontologists, entomologists, botanists and historians through greater learning opportunities by enhancing public access to our work.”
The new building will provide a secure location for a number of items that had been at risk, such as: archival books and manuscripts; rare and priceless artworks, including watercolours from the 1700s; several paintings by Emily Carr; and early provincial maps.
The planned RapidBus route between the West Shore and downtown Victoria will be a game changer for commuters when it launches April 10.
The service will run every 15 minutes, making the ride more convenient. That's key for convincing people to leave their cars at home. Buses will run between 7am and 10pm Monday to Saturday and 8am to 10pm on Sundays. There will be additional buses during peak times on weekdays to improve customer experience, BC Transit said.
"Smart regional transportation is important for businesses that depend on staff being able to get to the workplace," Chamber CEO Bruce Williams said. "Taking the bus instead of a car is much better environmentally, especially with BC Transit's commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in its fleet."
Businesses that service the real estate industry are a major contributor to Greater Victoria's economy. However, rising interest rates have slowed sales. Throw in the traditional quiet period around the holidays and fewer properties are changing hands. Only 384 sales were recorded in the region for November, down from 653 last November.
There are also concerns about potential unintended consequences of recent changes to the provincial Strata Property Act.
"It is an open question whether these changes will bring any additional rental stock to the market — with BC's complex Residential Tenancy Act not all homeowners of vacant strata homes have a desire to become landlords and current interest rates are less attractive to investors who may want to purchase strata rental properties," Victoria Real Estate Board President President Dinnie-Smyth said in a news release. "It is also possible that these measures will contribute further to eroding housing affordability as older stratas with rental restrictions were generally valued lower than their rentable counterparts."
Slower sales have also contributed to a slight dip in market values over the last few months. That could mean some property assessments — being sent out soon to homeowners from BC Assessment — will be higher than current market value.
“I want to emphasize that assessments are based on July 1 values of this year, meaning that when similar properties were sold up to and around July 1, those market value sales are used to calculate your assessed value," Assessor Bryan Mura said in a news release. “An increase in assessment value does not, however, necessarily result in an increase in property taxes. Taxes are typically only affected if you are above the average value change for your community."
A movement that initially took hold in the City of Victoria is set to become a Canada-wide initiative as of Dec. 20. The federal Single-Use Plastics Prohibition Regulations aims to stop the manufacture, import and sale of bags, cutlery and other items made with problematic plastics.
The Chamber worked closely with Victoria and other local governments. Our goal was to make sure the initial regulations incorporated innovations that businesses were already using to address consumer concerns. The public has, for many years, supported businesses that provided alternatives to plastic waste. Having the same rules across the country will help businesses work with the requirements efficiently and effectively.
Housing remains a drag on the vitality of our region, though overall quality of life in Greater Victoria has improved.
According to the 2022 Vital Signs Report, released this week, Greater Victoria's grade has moved up from a B grade last year to a B+ this year.
Housing earned an F grade this year, a significant drop from a D+ last year.
"Vital Signs is a great check up on our region's economy, and The Chamber was happy to contribute as a community partner this year," Chamber CEO Bruce Williams said. "The grades are a good way to illustrate concepts that contribute to our overall quality of life."
It's the 19th edition of the annual report, which uses surveys as well as stories and graphics to provide snapshots of the past year.
This year's theme asked What Does Community Mean To You? Respondents rated the natural environment and climate as the best things about Greater Victoria. The aforementioned Housing crisis and cost of living were the two most important issues, according to the survey.
The report looks at 12 areas, with grades ranging from a B-plus for Learning and Sports and Recreation, to an F for Housing and a C- for Health and Wellness.
The RapidBus service between the West Shore and downtown Victoria is expected to launch in early 2023. Construction on Douglas Street is ongoing, BC Transit said.
"RapidBus is transit service that outperforms the personal automobile in speed, comfort and reliability," states BC Transit's website. "It is connected, frequent, fast and reliable."
The idea is to provide faster and more convenient transit to encourage more people to use the bus to commute. The goal is to go from 80,000 daily transit users today to 200,000 by 2038.
The project is included in the BC Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure's South Island Transportation Strategy, released in 2020.
Better transit is one solution for improving transportation planning in Greater Victoria — something The Chamber continues to advocate for.
The provincial government announced changes on Monday to the way certain property values are assessed. The move could potentially ease a burden faced by businesses whose property has been assessed based on its potential value. For example, a one-storey non-profit serving a downtown neighbourhood assessed as if it housed a high-rise condo resulted in massive unsustainable property tax increases.
The Chamber advocates for Fair Regulations, and we were successful in getting the province to review BC Assessment's "highest and best use" practice.
The changes announced this week will allow municipalities to choose lower tax rates for select properties.
Greater Victoria's housing market continues to become more balanced. The ratio of sales to active listings is at 28.14%. Real estate professionals consider a balanced market to be between 20% and 15%, Victoria Real Estate Board president Karen Dinnie-Smyth said.
“A high percentage means more of the available listings have sold, which shows a high buyer demand and that’s generally a favourable market for sellers," Dinnie-Smyth said.
The benchmark value of a single family home in Greater Victoria's core was $1.39 million. That's down from $1.43 million in July, but up from $1.2 million last August.
Municipal governments are responsible for services and infrastructure that have very real impacts on the daily lives of businesses in their community. Having good quality governance is critical to making sure money raised from taxes is well spent.
On Oct. 15, voters will have a chance to choose who will represent them on their municipal councils for the next four years.
"This is an opportunity for individuals to take a look at the candidates and what they represent, and (ask if it's) in the best interest of you, your family, your business, your neighbourhood," Chamber CEO Bruce Williams told Global News. "So make sure you're voting for the right people."
Exactly who your options are will be known by 4 pm on Sept. 9, as that's the deadline for candidates to put forward their nomination.
For key dates in this year's civic elections, which includes voting in a new school board for your districts, check out this link.
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.
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.
An initiative that started in the City of Victoria, was supported by business and took root across Greater Victoria is moving to the national stage. As of the end of this year, the federal government is banning the production or importation of single-use plastic bags, straws, stir sticks containers and other items that clog up landfills and contaminate natural ecosystems.
The Chamber worked closely with local governments on the initial regulations to ensure government followed innovations already being introduced by business. This helped the implementation unfold smoothly as the rules were a response to public demand as identified by businesses, ensuring success. The best way to address the seriousness of climate change is by supporting innovations led by business.
Starting June 20, travellers will no longer be required to show proof of vaccination when boarding a plane or train in Canada. Federally regulated workers will also no longer need to reveal their vaccination status.
The federal government has opted to suspend the requirements, which could be reinstated if the COVID-19 situation changes.
The change does not affect the steps that need to be taken by Canadians returning from international travel. As well, travelling to other countries requires following their entry rules, including proof of vaccination to enter the US.
Federal vaccine mandates for travel were put in place on Oct. 30, 2021.
Meanwhile, long lineups continue at Service Canada centres caused by people seeking to renew their passport. An additional 600 workers were hired this month to help alleviate the backlog as passport applications jumped.
The federal government expects as many as 4.3 million applications over the next two years. Almost 1.3 million passports applications were processed between April 1, 2021, and March 31, 2022. That compares to 363,000 the previous year.
The provincial government has launched a new BC Bid portal, making it easier for businesses to participate in procurement opportunities offered by hundreds of public sector organizations.
The single-point of access is used by school districts, municipalities, health authorities, Crown corporations and other government agencies to post contracts for goods and services across industries.
Greater Victoria's business community is showing its resilience as a new report shows commerce continues to strengthen and grow.
“Despite headwinds facing the global economy, our region has roared back and we’re in a good position to really take flight as we welcome our traditional tourism season,” Chamber CEO Bruce Williams said. “These indicators make it clear that people can’t wait to get back to our vibrant downtown and enjoy all the amazing experiences our businesses provide.”
The report shows that there were 314,730 more pedestrian trips to downtown Victoria in the first three months of 2022 than the same period last year. The City of Victoria issued 7,623 business licences in the first quarter of 2022, up from 7,187 in the same period in 2019 before the pandemic.
The provincial government appears committed to its plan to rebuild the Royal BC Museum over the next eight years at a cost of $789 million. The museum was founded in 1886 and has been in its current location since 1968.
The Chamber will work to support businesses affected by the change, including attractions that now have an opportunity to increase their profile.
“You can come downtown and go to the Bateman Gallery, you can go to the Bug Zoo, you can go to the Maritime Museum — there are still a lot of attractions around and plenty of things to do,” Chamber CEO Bruce Williams told CHEK News.
“The work to modernize the Royal BC Museum is a legacy project that will enrich, inspire and continue to benefit British Columbians and Indigenous Peoples for generations to come," RBCM CEO Alicia Dubois said in the provincial news release.
There are plans for travelling exhibitions, regional displays and an interactive walking tour in Victoria while the new museum is being built.