Vancouver Island councillors eye sites for new national housing cash

Victoria City Councillor Ben Isitt says the Evergreen Terrace complex is one site where redevelopment could add new apartments above the townhouse-style housing units. (Photo: Jason D'Souza, CBC)

CBC News, November 23, 2017

Municipal councillors in Victoria and Saanich are attempting to estimate what the region's share of funds might be from a new $40 billion national housing strategy announced Wednesday.

They're also on the lookout for potential sites where new housing could be built or updated using those new funds.

On Wednesday Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the goal of building 100,000 new affordable housing units across Canada, repairing 300,000 more, and cutting homelessness by 50 per cent over the 10-year plan.

That could translate into about 1,000 new units of social housing for the Capital Regional District, with about 300 of those for Saanich, the region's largest municipality, councillor Fred Haynes told On the Island host Gregor Craigie.

"One of the questions is how quickly will the money flow and how quickly can we get to work to get those houses in place," Haynes said.

He is concerned that much of the funding won't be available before the next federal election.

Meanwhile, in Victoria, city councillor Ben Isitt pointed to the region's largest social housing complex as a prime example of potential for updating and increasing the city's non-market housing supply.

Evergreen Terrace, formerly named Blanshard Court, contains more than 300 townhouses and low-rise apartments built over 40 years ago, Isitt told All Points West host Jason D'Souza.

It was an urban renewal project that bulldozed a low-income neighbourhood.

"I don't think we would pursue that type of model today," Isitt said. "But the advantage of having this asset of land is there are opportunities to create new housing on the Evergreen Terrace site, particularly more non-market housing that's accessible to people."

"I think if you have a phased redevelopment of the site you could preserve ground-level townhomes, so you could essentially have no net loss in ground-oriented family units but we could have several stories of new housing above it," Isitt said.

$60 million committed

Isitt and Haynes noted the Capital Regional District and B.C. government have already committed a total of $60 million for a "housing first" fund to build affordable and supportive housing, but were awaiting federal funding.

"Maybe that can happen in conjunction with this program," Isitt said.

"There's no reason we can't see the creation of thousands of units of new non-market housing in this region,"he said.

"The next step is a process of site selection and bringing the partners together to get shovels in the ground."

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