Missing Middle Housing Initiative Public Hearing Continues Sept. 1

Victoria City Council will continue the August 4 public hearing on the Missing Middle Housing Initiative on Thursday, September 1 beginning at 6:30 p.m.

Learn more about the Missing Middle Housing Initiative, review the proposed bylaws, and how to communicate your support or opposition here.

Public Hearing Webcast 

You can view the webcast of the Missing Middle Housing Initiative public hearing that took place on August 4 here

RNA Public Hearing Presentation, 4 August 2022  

My name is Chantal Meagher, and I’m speaking today on behalf of the Rockland Neighbourhood Association.

The Rockland Neighbourhood is located on the traditional and ancestral Coast Salish territory of the Lekwungen speaking peoples, who have been here since time immemorial and continue to thrive. We are mindful of being respectful guests when considering the historical landscape that the Lekwungen managed, and which is in significant decline due to urbanization and the growing population. 

Rockland is a neighbourhood of renters and homeowners with diverse housing stock, including; the conversion of former mansions and larger homes into rental apartments and rooming houses, high and low-rise apartments, long-term care homes for seniors, and multi-family units, condos, townhouses, and multiplexes. Notably, over 70% of Rockland’s population lives in multi-unit buildings, and the neighbourhood also maintains the last urban forest in Victoria.

Victoria is in a housing crisis – no one can dispute the need for more diverse housing options. It is a global problem, and we appreciate the efforts of the council and city staff to address it here in our community. 

The RNA supports the principle of increased density throughout the city to increase home ownership and affordable rental housing. However, we have serious concerns regarding the details of the Missing Middle Housing Initiative as proposed, including:

– The lack of protection for renters;  
– The exponential increase in land value and single-family homes that will result, affecting both renters and homeowners;  
– The proposed height and massing for all neighbourhoods, in particular of mid-block houseplexes, which will dwarf existing housing, and change the nature of neighbourhoods;
– The absence of regulations restricting land assembly [and loss of community input by eliminating public hearings]; 
– The environmental cost of the loss of mature tree canopy, and the natural environment it supports [the proposed design guidelines only allocate 6.5% permeable green space per lot]; and
– The accelerated and unnecessary destruction of existing homes [destruction of existing affordable homes serving as multi-unit rentals].

According to the City of Victoria’s consultation report by Coriolis Consulting, what the Council is proposing is unlikely to achieve its stated goals. Yet, it will change Victoria’s topography by accelerating the incremental demise of urban green space. There are other options to increase density and accessibility to homeownership while protecting and increasing affordability and quality rental opportunities – solutions that are environmentally sustainable and not predicated on destroying existing housing stock.

In the pursuit of implementing a legacy project, this Council has missed the opportunity to encourage increased density in ways that would not necessarily depend on developers – or their required profit margins – to execute. A sustainable city is designed to address social, environmental, and economic impact through urban planning and city management.   

Recently, a local organization supporting the Missing Middle Housing Initiative tweeted this question – “Do we choose Missing Middle or more 2.34 million dollar mansions?” This is not a binary choice.  There are other options to find and fund innovative and equitable solutions.  The majority of those expressing concerns are opposing THIS proposal.  They are not opposing implementation of a reasoned approach to missing middle.  Biggest doesn’t equal best. 

The city has many other tools in their toolbox.  For example: 

  • Make the process of building garden homes or secondary suites, or installing prefabricated tiny homes less onerous. They are currently allowed; however, the process is so lengthy and complicated that many homeowners give up in frustration. Why has streamlining this process not been pursued with the same zeal as the Missing Middle Initiative?  
  • Simplify the process of converting existing houses to houseplexes, and allow strata ownership of the units created. Home conversion could also include lifting and extending existing homes to build additional units – which would provide increased densification at a far lower environmental and financial cost while having a much less impact on the existing landscape.
  • Simplify the process for building strata-titled duplex, triplex, or fourplexes, utilizing the current height and setback regulations.  Other municipalities in the CRD are doing this with great success.
  • Crackdown on Air BnB’s and vacant residences. We know that increased efforts are now underway; however, the City of Victoria should give this priority as thousands of new builds and investment properties have been operated as businesses since the Air BnB regulations were passed.  
  • Complete consultation on the Villages and Corridors Plan – this has been long-anticipated and will increase densification in many city regions. 

These suggestions are not a replacement for a comprehensive Missing Middle policy. However, if the City of Victoria had deployed an effort to streamline these policies at the beginning of this Council’s mandate,  we would have more housing already. Deferring action on these and other economic policies on the part of City Hall should not oblige the community to accept the single-minded solution currently proposed.  

We also have concerns regarding a deeply flawed process:  

Many supporters have declared sufficient public engagement regarding the Missing Middle Housing Initiative. The RNA participated in the presentation and preliminary design concepts based mainly on the PRINCIPLE of increasing density and affordable housing. The City of Victoria has only recently clarified the details and released them to the public. 

For example: initially, City staff advised that corner townhomes could be built up to 10.5 meters, while houseplexes in the middle of blocks would be limited to 8 meters. A fact sheet posted by the City in July 2022 states that a houseplex could now also be built to 10.5 meters, an increase of over 25%, which was certainly not part of the consultation process. The difference between an 8-meter high houseplex and a 10.5-meter high houseplex is massive, especially in the middle of a residential block of single-story houses, sitting just 1.5 meters from its neighbours’ property lines. Such drastic change deserves meaningful consultation based on facts.  

The Rockland Neighbourhood Association believes that the time between posting the MMHI Facts Sheet and this scheduled Public Hearing has not provided the citizens of Victoria enough time to review and understand it thoroughly. Reading through the correspondence attachments submitted for this hearing reveals that many, both in support and opposition, do not clearly understand the true magnitude of this policy, and how it will affect the sustainability of living in Victoria.

Even well-intended political land-use decisions can result in undesirable societal outcomes. And an evening of public hearings, on the heels of a long weekend in the middle of the summer, cannot be considered meaningful consultation required to formulate a vision for long-term city planning.  

The RNA asks the Council to send this proposal back to staff for further work and consultation with stakeholders. 

Thank you,
Rockland Neighbourhood Association