What affordable housing should look like

The housing that the GVHS builds for the community today will only become more affordable as each new building’s mortgage is paid off.

Almost four months ago, Victoria councillors were grumbling about the Greater Victoria Housing Society’s most recent affordable housing proposal. Coun. Madoff prophesied a torrent of community backlash, while Coun. Gudgeon called the recent influx of affordable housing into the Burnside-Gorge area a “detriment to the neighbourhood.”

The non-profit project will provide 68 units of rental housing along with five townhouses, which will be sold to offset construction costs. Units will be rented to low- and middle-income households who earn less than $65,000 per year.

In the end, neither general outrage nor fear of neighbourhood degradation brought residents down to city hall on Thursday. In fact, only one person even felt the need to attend the public hearing, and then only to voice his support. GVHS executive director Kaye Melliship says the uneventful evening was a relief. “From our point of view that means we were extremely successful; that means we’ve dealt with all the potential issues within the community.”

In retrospect, it’s clear why no one felt the need to stand in the way of the GVHS. Unlike for-profit developments that line the pockets of developers with the money of wealthy snowbirds, or publicly funded affordable housing like the city’s Queens Manor development, which cost taxpayers several million dollars, the 68 units in this development will cost the city a total of $680,000. (As this paper hits the streets, the CRD board will decide whether or not to contribute an additional $816,000.)

Despite its initial reticence, council unanimously approved the project at its public hearing, prompting Russ Godfrey of the Tenant Resource Advisory Centre to praise the city for its support of this unconventional development.

“All I can say is I wish other municipalities would follow suit,” he said.

This is what affordable housing should look like. While the passage of time sees for-profit developments decrease in quality while steadily rising in price to match inflated market rates, the housing that the GVHS builds for the community today will only become more affordable as each new building’s mortgage is paid off, and profit will always find its way back to the community. The GVHS is not some cash-hungry developer or benevolent stateside bureaucracy, it’s an integral part of our community, and all of us should be thankful for such uneventful hearings. M

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