Victoria is reported to be the third highest market in Canada for home ownership, rental rates in the past year have risen 1% but we are still seventh among the most expensive Canadian rental markets ($695 per month is the median rent for a bachelor suite) and Greater Victorians spend an average of 44% of their annual income on housing. These are just a few of the stats I learned when I attended with other Oak Bay Council members and regional Council colleagues from municipalities across the region, the CRD’s Forum of Councils’ session on regional housing, titled “The Journey to Home.”
We heard that between 2011 and 2012, 639 individuals in the region moved from homelessness into housing, and by housing the homeless their costs to our health care system are reduced by as much as 75%. The CRD actually funds 65% of all administration costs for the Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness. The BC Housing Ministry (has invested $2.5B in housing since 2006) and the federal government also play key roles in funding supportive and affordable housing units but the region still has a gap of 1,500 units for affordable and 250 units for supportive. Homelessness is caused by three major factors: structural; systemic; and personal.
Housing remains one of the most challenging affordability issues in this region, according to the Victoria Foundation’s recent Vital Signs Report. Seniors’ housing, housing for singles and family housing are all areas in which accessibility continues to be a barrier for those in lower middle income and low income brackets.
The CRD has four model strategies for addressing regional housing needs through its Housing Secretariat:
- Regional Housing Trust Fund (to which 11 of 13 municipalities contribute and Oak Bay is one)
- Federal Homeless Partnership Strategy
- Regional Housing Affordability Strategy
- Housing Action Team
These proactive and successful initiatives set the CRD apart from many other regions in BC and Canada, relying on partnerships with the private and non-profit sectors to meet affordable and supportive housing needs.
It’s clear that every municipality recognizes that housing is a key factor to sustaining community health and safety. What is challenging for Oak Bay is the high value of land and the high cost of housing generally. But I learned at the Forum that through working with other governments and the CRD, and developing partnerships with other sectors, it is possible to explore creative options and strategies to address Oak Bay’s cost barrier to provide accessible housing in the municipality. Stay tuned…