Insights on Victoria's Rental Market

"Councillor Dubow,

I read the article in the Times Colonist and your quote “The condo price increase has kept renters in the rental market much longer than historic norms.” 

It struck me on how complex the issue is; to find a way to supply affordable ownership housing without driving up demand and thus prices.

It’s a complex negotiation to get Developers to pay more money for affordable housing, park fees, school improvement fees and other development cost charges (DCC) without impacting the cost to create both affordable ownership housing and affordable rental housing.

In the article it is stated that “60% of the people living in Victoria are renters.” That’s a very high percentage of the population. It would be an interesting statistic to explore in more detail. How many within the 60% currently rent subsidized housing? How many are living in proposed built rental apartments? How many are living in secondary suites in existing family homes?

It seems to me 60% of the population as renters is about as high a percentage any municipality would want as renters. Municipalities become a better place to live if more people have the peace of mind and security of owning their own home.

Could a more affordable ownership set of options help ease the rental vacancy?  

How do you accomplish this and keep the private sector and the developers in play, as a major source of inventory?

The previous Council “up zoned” all single-family homes in the city to allow secondary suites which was a good move, but it came with problems which are noted as:

  1. Many people who built a secondary suite immediately converted it to a VRBO which did not provide any long-term rental units to the market. The city had no policies to prevent VRBO use. I think this can be easily corrected at the build permit stage.
  2. Many single-family home properties are large enough to have a secondary suite in the existing house and a garden suite in the back yard, but that is not allowed, thereby missing an opportunity to make the most use of the property.
  3. At the same time Duplex Zoned properties and Triplex Zoned properties, which in most cases are on larger 7000 sq.ft. to 10,000.00 sq.ft. lots, were not addressed and not given any additional density or options to add another suite in the existing building, either by addition or by adding a garden or carriage house suite to the yard. This is another missed opportunity. In fact, given single family homes were effectively up zoned, owners of duplex and triplex properties could reasonably argue they were down zoned. There is an opportunity to correct this and I hope Victoria Council is considering it.    

These examples reveal a much bigger opportunity to provide more family-style rentals on existing properties in traditional residential neighborhoods in the City of Victoria.

I watched the phenomena of Langford’s development over the last 15 years. In the beginning, the Mayor and Council attracted the Development Community by offering no DCCs, and they provided zoning approval and building permits within 6 months. The building industry boomed, supply was available and affordable. Once things really got going, DCC charges were reintroduced and the community was built. At the time Langford had no services, one ice rink, a pool and a libaray. Now they have three ice rinks, two pools, numerous baseball, foot ball and rugby parks. They also have new schools and excellent infrastructure.

Victoria already has the infrastructure, the parks the pools the recreation faculties in place. Any increase in the tax base should help reduce the cost of permits, and development cost charges to assist in delivering more inventory at a lower cost. Now, builders need incentives to build more.

I moved to Victoria in 1974. At that time the vacancy rate was also low around 1.5% and for affordable rent almost zero. I couldn’t line up work until after I could find a place to call home. I couch surfed at a friend’s place, getting up at 4 am everyday to get a ride over to the Times Colonist to pick up the paper before distribution just to have any chance of finding a place. It took a month to find a run-down rat-infested house. It wasn’t close to downtown, there was no bus service and I had to rely on co-workers to get a ride to and from work.  We found a way to make it work. All the while, my wife was expecting our first child and I worked two jobs to pay the rent and put food on the table.

It appears not much has changed in 44 years.

In the end, through hard work, perseverance and some good luck, I was able to build a successful business career. However, I have not forgotten the stress and uncertainty we faced, and I would be happy to support you and hear your ideas on how we can support people in Victoria who are faced with similar challenges today.

I thank you for your service to the Community. "   

Sincerely, Richard C (Chuck) Meagher

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