Another week, another questionable decision from a divided Victoria council. Last Thursday, a cohort of Victoria councillors decided to ignore their staff's own expert advice and proclaim how the real estate market will create new affordable housing.
Certain Victoria councillors appear more interested in drawing attention to themselves than solving very real problems facing our community. We desperately need workforce housing - not grandstanding. Championing idealism will appeal to a segment of voters but it's a disservice to people in need.
After commissioning a study on the best way to add to the city's stock of affordable housing, council heard that new projects become unfeasible if builders are required to make more than 10% of the units affordable.
Despite the recommendation, council voted on June 13 to increase the requirement to 20%. Last week, a vocal minority of council urged their colleagues to reduce the requirement to 10% before voting to finalize their decision.
"It's great to dream but it's another thing to be able to achieve," said Coun. Charlayne Thornton Joe, explaining to her colleagues that they need to understand the tools at their disposal.
"We already know anything above 10% is not financially viable," said Mayor Lisa Helps, referring to the development community as home builders who need to be seen as partners in creating affordable housing in the city.
"I am going to support moving back to 10% because it creates the art of the possible as opposed to what we actually just dream of," said Coun. Marianne Alto, noting that, historically, attempting to regulate developers has been less effective than engaging them in conversation. "I don't want to rely on hope, I want to get things built."
However, their voices weren't enough to change the minds of the cohort who chose to make a statement by adhering to the 20% stipulation.
They may see it as a bold move but, if it forces construction out of Victoria to jurisdictions with more realistic requirements, the city will have made the affordable housing situation worse. As has been noted, 20% of nothing is nothing.