Why is this type of housing a priority for Victoria?
Victoria is growing. Housing in our community needs to meet the needs of everyone including young people who want to work here, families who want to stay, and grandparents who want to be close to grandkids.
We know from Census data that Victoria continues to lose young families, likely as a result of the lack of housing options that fit their incomes and ability to grow as a family.
Healthy communities include people of all ages and different stages of life. Building that community starts with creating housing options that meets the community’s needs.
What kind of housing will this project encourage?
Houseplexes are very similar to house conversions (turning one large house into multiple smaller homes), except they are newly built and designed for the purpose of containing multiple dwellings in one building (duplex, triplex, fourplex, fiveplex, and sixplex). They appear similar in size to a large, historic house and can maintain the pattern of green usable backyards with tree planting space.
Townhouses tend to deliver the highest proportion of two- and three-bedroom, family-oriented housing units compared to any other multi-family housing form. Although the homes generally sit side by side, they could include suites, or be stacked where one townhouse unit sits above another. Townhouse units typically have individual walk-up entries from the street, with access to private outdoor green space.
Where owners of buildings with heritage merit agree to heritage designation, the proposed zoning would allow sensitive new construction, either as an addition to the existing house or as stand-alone infill housing in the rear yard.
Why do we need more townhouses and houseplexes?
Not everyone wants to live in a condo building, nor can everyone afford a single-family home.
Young families, couples and empty nesters want to continue to stay in Victoria but struggle to find housing that fits their needs and their incomes.
Many want housing with a front door to the street, access to green space, and more bedrooms than most apartment buildings.
We know there are people who want to live close to work so that they can walk, ride their bike or take the bus instead of relying on their car. This helps support the quality of life that people desire, where they are active and have more time to spend with their family.
It also supports our climate by reducing emissions, protecting green space and urban forests across the region.
How does this type of housing support sustainability in our community?
Many people want to live close to where they work so that they can walk, ride their bike or take the bus instead of relying on their car. This helps support the quality of life that people desire, where they are active and have more time to spend with their family.
It also supports our climate by reducing emissions.
Building more housing in Victoria also helps protect green space and urban forests across the region.
Creating more housing options in neighbourhoods can also support more services and shops for the area, improvements to transit service and car share opportunities.
What could be the result of this process? What changes could we expect to see?
Missing middle zoning: Council could chose to approve zoning changes that would allow missing middle housing forms on properties within the City’s Traditional Residential areas (see Map 2 – page 37 of our Official Community Plan).
Missing Middle Design Guidelines: Here’s a proposed set of design guidelines that could guide missing middle Development Permit applications, ensuring high-quality design that enhances neighbourliness, liveability, and social vitality. Development Permits are often approved by Council, however Council can also delegate approval of Development Permits to staff, creating more opportunities to build this type of housing.
Missing Middle Policy: This policy document would be approved by Council to guide the evaluation of missing middle developments that would still require rezoning applications - e.g. if someone proposes to do something different from what would be allowed by the missing middle zoning mentioned above.
Official Community Plan amendments: Changes to the Official Community Plan would be needed to facilitate and align with the three policies and regulations mentioned above. Only Council can approve these amendments, following consultation.
Could new Missing Middle homes contain secondary suites?
Recent changes to the BC Building Code (2018) allow municipalities to permit secondary suites within certain ground-oriented multi-family buildings such as townhouses and houseplexes, depending on their configuration. In addition to current opportunities, zoning for missing middle housing would align with these recent building code changes and allow suites, where possible, in missing middle housing.
This move aligns with objectives in the City’s Housing Strategy Phase Two and input heard during early engagement by creating opportunities to increase the supply of housing in the secondary rental market, and particularly creating rental units with access to usable outdoor space. Further, these suites can act as mortgage helpers for new homebuyers and provide flexibility for aging in place or intergenerational housing. Garden suites will also still be permitted when associated with a single-family dwelling without a suite.
Would zoning changes mean no public hearing is required whenever someone applies to build Missing Middle Housing?
If Council chooses to adopt bylaw amendments to permit missing middle forms within zoning, that will mean no public hearing would be required if someone is applying to build those permitted housing forms in a way that complies with the parameters of the bylaw. That is also why we have been gathering public feedback as a part of this initiative, and there will be a public hearing before Council gives final consideration to zoning changes that could permit Missing Middle Housing.
Can the City ensure Missing Middle Housing is affordable?
The City’s Inclusionary Housing and Community Amenity Policy sets targets for new strata (ownership) housing developments. For developments that create 60 units or more, the policy directs projects to create inclusionary housing units that meet the City’s definition of affordability (see page 47 of the Housing Strategy). For projects, like the Missing Middle housing considered through this initiative, that would create fewer than 60 units, the target is a cash contribution with 70% prioritized for assisting in development and retention of affordable housing, and 30% going toward community amenities. This approach was taken knowing that without government funding, smaller projects generally cannot deliver inclusionary housing units. Despite this, the City has been gathering input from the public, non-profit housing providers, and housing funders with the aim of finding innovative approaches to reduce the cost barrier of newly constructed missing middle housing. Our second phase of financial analysis is also primarily focused on honing the balance of maximizing affordability outcomes (e.g. cash contributions toward Victoria’s affordable housing reserve fund, a portion of missing middle homes managed as below-market units) without entirely stifling the creation missing middle housing.
What can the City do to minimize land value impacts from zoning changes?
We recognize there are many factors outside the City’s control are already acting on land values, but we are also considering how the City can approach zoning changes in ways that minimize their impact. Our phase one financial analysis for this project indicated that, as there is marginal viability for most missing middle housing types, zoning for this type of housing generally does not provide a financial rationale for commercial developers to acquire land for anything more than current market values. Phase two of the analysis is focused on identifying a potential contribution to the Housing Reserve Fund, local amenities fund, and or delivery of below market homeownership units that the zoning could require to achieve the densities associated with the missing middle housing forms tested. This will help ensure that if and wherever there is any potential rationale for acquiring land above market prices, the majority of that additional value will accrue to public benefit (without entirely discouraging the creation of that housing).
We have also been working with BC Assessment to look at this as part of our research and analysis. It’s ultimately up to BC Assessment to confirm assessment values, however our discussions with them suggests that the impact on land value from City-initiated zoning changes could be minimal. The OCP’s land use designations are one of the factors in determining land assessments, and the City is proposing to update its zoning regulations largely reflect the OCP that has been in place since 2012. While rezoning a specific lot can increase the land value relative to neighbouring properties – a more widespread zoning change eliminates the scarcity of land, minimizing the added value.
Zoning changes for Missing Middle housing could be applied throughout the city to minimize perceived scarcity of opportunity that might otherwise lead to bidding up of select properties with new zoning. Of course, regardless of zoning changes, building new housing on a property can increase the value of the property relative to what was there before, and we have been seeing new single detached houses replacing older detached homes at a dramatically faster pace than older houses are replaced by missing middle housing; for instance, from 2012 through 2019, while building permits were approved for over 600 units either as single-fmaily dwellings or suites therein, fewer than 350 missing middle housing units were approved.