Community members share their thoughts at redevelopment proposal meeting
As multiple units of affordable housing are proposed for redevelopment into condos for sale, current tenants are left wondering if they will be able to afford to continue living in Victoria.
The North Park Neighbourhood Association (NPNA) with the Community Association Land Use Committee (CALUC) held a meeting on the evening of Oct. 17 that attracted quite a crowd.
“This is particularly controversial because they’re taking out affordable housing units,” said Sabina Singh, executive director of the NPNA, in an interview with the Martlet. “We have a good turnout, a lot of people coming and explaining that being displaced from their home in this market is not a minor thing.”
The proposed development is at 1026/1028, and 1030 Empress Avenue. These lots are currently owned by Chris Lacey, the president of Bowcey Construction, who will be executing the redevelopments if the proposal is approved by the City of Victoria.
Lacey explained during the meeting that the current house on 1030 Empress Avenue is over a century old, and that modern building standards surrounding seismic activity are much different than they used to be. He and his architect Tim Kindrat also added that they hope to help fill the demand for purchasable housing in Victoria.
However, many others at the meeting believe the project and resulting evictions will do more harm than good.
“From all the conversations we’ve had, there’s an absence of thinking about the people who live there,” said Pierce Nettling, a housing researcher and member of the Victoria Tenants Union.
The question and answer portion of the presentation had no shortage of concerned voices. Not only did current tenants voice their fear around being displaced into a market where the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment is over $2 000 according to Zumper, but neighbours made it clear that they think Empress Avenue is already congested enough without more construction and development being added.
The CALUC will be compiling the concerns voiced at the meeting and sharing them with the City of Victoria. Those who didn’t attend the meeting or would like to share their thoughts on similar matters can do so using Engage Victoria, an online platform that allows residents to voice their opinions on various projects in the city.
“I’ve worked in emergency shelters where people go when they get evicted,” said Liz Cronin, a social worker who spoke at last week’s meeting. “I really think it’s important to centre in any of these meetings if any person is being displaced from affordable housing, that in this climate, it is a life-threatening emergency.”
Many other attendees punctuated Cronin’s thoughts with several rounds of applause.
“The impacts on their body and their mind are very violent … I’ve literally had nightmares about it,” said Cronin describing the experience of helping others find low-income housing. “I believe that the City of Victoria should cease any renovictions until we have adequate policy in place to protect the people being displaced.”
Currently, when landlords are granted permission to go through with a renoviction, tenants are entitled to receive the equivalent of one month’s rent. If the renovations do not proceed after the eviction, tenants are entitled to the equivalent of 12 month’s rent.
Meanwhile, as affordable housing continues to be a major issue for many B.C. residents, the provincial government is looking to address it with new rules in the Short Term Rentals Accommodation Act. This legislature hopes to turn some of the many short-term rentals into long-term accommodations.
This legislation will affect rentals available on sites such as Airbnb and VRBO. The principal residence requirement will dictate that short-term rentals are limited to where the host lives and one secondary suite or accessory dwelling unit.
Greater Victoria is one of many places where principal residence requirements will apply. Major cities all around the world such as New York City, San Francisco, Amsterdam, and Paris have started to impose more rules and guidelines for short-term rentals.