Housing in Oak Bay
Like so many other jurisdictions around the world, the pandemic profoundly impacted BC’s housing market. House prices across Canada jumped, supply chains slowed significantly, the price of lumber skyrocketed, and skilled labour shortages worsened. Record low interest rates drove up demand and speculation and investor activity, while record high numbers of people moved to the region. Now rising interest rates are an additional pressure on affordability. The challenges facing us have evolved, and so is our response.
One of Council’s key priorities for the 2022-2026 term is housing and to enable the creation of more diverse and affordable housing that is responsive to current and future community, regional needs, and climate change imperatives.
The municipality operates under the provisions of the Province of British Columbia Local Government Act, which sets out all powers, duties and functions for municipal governance across the Province.
In November 2023, the Province introduced a range of new legislation to implement the Homes for People Plan. These changes articulate very specific solutions to help create new housing options. The recently announced Provincial initiatives now requires the District to pivot and reprioritize projects to ensure legal compliance, and implementation of the Provincial legislation.
District Housing Action Program (2024-2028)
The District’s Housing Action Program combines Council Priority Projects (CPP) related to housing and while also responding to the Provincial housing initiatives, which have become the District’s top priorities for the next 2 years. The District’s Housing Action Program elements are summarized below:
- Housing Supply Act and Response to the Housing Target Order (2023-2028) Gives the Province the authority to set housing targets in municipalities, starting with those that are experiencing the greatest housing pressures. The District of Oak Bay target order is for a minimum of 664 net new housing units to be completed within 5 years. Housing targets will be measured after the first six months (March 31, 2024), then annually (September 30) by net new units completed and actions taken by the municipality to meet targets.
- Small Scale Multi-Unit Housing (SSMUH) Interim Zoning Updates (June 2024) The Province is requiring municipalities to update Zoning Bylaws to permit a minimum of three to six dwelling units in areas zoned for single family dwelling units.
- Official Community Plan (OCP) Interim Update (June 2024) While the District updates the Zoning Bylaw, amendments may also be needed to the OCP policies and Development Permit Area guidelines for Infill Residential Housing. The scope of this update will also include analysis work to signal and identify areas for higher density multi-unit residential, village areas and commercial areas.
- Development Cost Charge (DCC) Bylaw and Amenity Cost Charge (ACC) Bylaw (2024/2027) Introduction of streamlined development finance tools to improve development cost certainty and to assist the District in helping to fund the costs of infrastructure renewal and amenities related to increased housing supply and growth. This will be implemented through a new Amenity Cost Charge (ACC) Bylaw and an expanded framework for Development Cost Charges (DCC). To balance these Housing Action Program priorities, preparation of an interim DCC Bylaw based on currently available housing target and housing need information will be developed in 2024 prior to development of an ACC bylaw (2027).
- Housing Needs Report (HNR) (2024) The Province is requiring the District to complete an interim HNR by December 31, 2024. Proposed changes to the Housing Needs Report (HNR) include using a standard method for a more consistent, robust understanding of both local housing needs currently needed and over the next 20 years.
- Official Community Plan (OCP) Review (2024-2025) The Province is requiring the District to have an updated OCP by December 31, 2025. Proposed changes for OCPs require an update every five years, with early and ongoing public engagement to plan for homes and growth over 20 years. In June/July of 2024, instructions will be provided by the Province to local governments regarding the OCP review.
- Zoning Bylaw Review (2024-2025) In tandem with the updated OCP, the Province is also requiring that the District’s Zoning Bylaw be updated to accommodate the planned 20 year housing supply. These changes are required to be in place by December 31, 2025. In June/July 2024, instructions will be provided to local governments regarding the Zoning Bylaw review.
- Optimize Development Processes (2026-2028) This project would review and provide recommendations for streamlining, enhancing, and modernizing department processes and systems. It would support the implementation of resulting recommendations, best practices, Information Technology and innovative approaches to improve development approvals processes.
District Housing Action Program (2024-2028)
- Housing Needs Report (2020) provides data on the community’s demographics, current housing supply, and projected needs for the future.
- Secondary Suite Program (2022) secondary suites are now permitted in all one-family residential (RS) zones. A secondary suite must be located within a principal building that is used for residential purposes and a building permit must be obtained. Secondary suites help offset the cost of a mortgage, helps keep family close and can provide additional rental housing options in the community. More information on adding a secondary suite to a single-family dwelling.
- Infill Housing Strategy (2022) identifies how infill housing could work in different Oak Bay neighbourhoods to create more diverse housing opportunities within the community. Community input to date has demonstrated strong support for expanding housing options.
- Housing Accelerator Fund Program Grant Application (2023) In July 2023 the District submitted an application to the federal government HAF funding that would expedite regulatory changes creating incentives for new affordable and market rental and condo development near village areas and priority areas. This would look at increased height, additional density, and new multi-unit areas.
Visit Connect Oak Bay and the Housing Action Program to learn about current and upcoming opportunities to provide input on housing related work.