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. New policy and regulatory frameworks must be developed to support the transition to include more diverse housing types while balancing and maintaining community character and liveability.
The District is committed to working together with a diverse range of stakeholders or partners, including the provincial and federal governments, non-profit, and private housing developers. Addressing our future housing needs will involve collaboration and coordination with these groups and ongoing education and engagement with the community.
The District’s 2014 Official Community Plan identified a need for action and policy on affordable and inclusive housing. The District has several housing initiatives underway to support Council’s priority for creating a more diverse range of housing options in the community.
Completed Housing Initiatives (2020 - 2022)
- 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.
Priority Housing Initiatives Underway (2023)
- Infill Housing Program Implementation is set to become the District's primary mechanism for increasing housing supply in the form of detached suites, duplexes, triplexes, townhouses, heritage conversions and large lot subdivisions. The program will be implemented through policies, bylaw amendments, and design guidelines.
- Response to the Homes for People Action Plan The Province of BC announced the Homes for People Action Plan which includes changes to provincial legislation to be introduced fall 2023 that will allow up to four units on a single residential lot (one family residential use). The District’s Infill Housing Program will align with any new provincial legislation.
- Housing Supply Act 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, then annually by net new units completed and actions taken by the municipality to meet targets. The District will in due course be preparing a Housing Action Plan on how it will respond to meeting this target order
- Housing Accelerator Fund Program Grant Application 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.
Upcoming Housing Initiatives
- Village Areas Planning to help create more housing choices and enhance the street scape and public realm in the Oak Bay Village as well as for secondary village areas (Estevan, Foul Bay and Cadboro Bay) as identified within the Official Community Plan (OCP).
- Rental Housing Strategy to explore existing rental housing market, identify challenges, investigate rental housing sites coupled with density bonusing provisions, and incentives to protect existing rental housing.
- Housing Action Plan to create a plan for all recent and upcoming housing related initiatives. To follow up on recently implemented or adopted programs and initiatives, amendments to the OCP, investigate land economics to ensure viability, develop a monitoring program, develop partnerships with housing providers and consider housing incentives.
- Secondary Suite Incentives Program to encourage the development of more secondary suites. This program will complement the Province’s Secondary Suite Incentive Program providing assistance to help homeowners create a new secondary suite in existing and new housing to be rented out for below market value.
- Development Approval Optimization Digitization by focusing on streamlining workflows leveraging technology and involving stakeholders the District can achieve greater efficiency improved service delivery and enhanced overall performance within the Community Building and Planning Department.
These initiatives over time will support the community in the development of diverse and inclusive housing options that will accommodate existing and future residents of all ages, incomes, and family situations, including those with special needs.
Visit Connect Oak Bay to learn about current and upcoming opportunities to provide input on housing related work.