victoria bc missing middle housing

Missing Middle Housing in Victoria, BC

Victoria’s Missing Middle Housing Initiative

 As Canada’s housing market continues to hit record levels, young Victoria families are facing the decision to stay in condominiums and apartments or move elsewhere to be able to purchase a single-family home or townhouse with yard space.

The Victoria Real Estate Board now reports that the average price of a detached house in Victoria is over $1 million. The average price for a townhouse is about $750,000.

“None of my peers can afford to buy a house here, most will leave Victoria when they no longer wish to sacrifice their money to their landlords and would prefer to buy.” – Missing Middle Housing Survey Respondent.

At a time when housing prices and rental rates are the highest they’ve been in decades, being able to own a home with a yard has become a pipe dream for many British Columbian families.

Many Victorians pointed out that technically there are units in the city that they could afford, but that most units within financial reach are far too small for their families, with no access to a yard, and no pets allowed, so they are not able to live a full life.

It’s not just families either, it’s students and seniors who are finding themselves priced out of the market for a good, safe home.

What is Missing Middle Housing?

Missing middle housing is designed to address families and individuals who are being pushed out of the market for a single-family home. Missing middle housing types include townhouses, duplexes, triplexes and fourplexes. These three to four-storey units are meant to help diversify housing and provide options that extend beyond detached single-family homes or apartments.

What is the Missing Middle Housing Initiative?

The City’s of Victoria’s Strategic Plan (2020-2022) included an action in 2020 to consider a comprehensive amendment to the Zoning Bylaw to permit all “Missing Middle” housing forms as of right without the need for rezoning or development permit. 

This would make it much simpler for developers to create low-rise multi-family housing developments as infill in existing neighbourhoods. 

Also, rather than demolishing heritage homes to make room for Missing Middle homes, developers would be permitted to build developments designed for slightly higher (gentle) density housing. 

This protects heritage homes and potential heritage homes, while also breathing new life into the surrounding neighbourhood with the goal of increasing liveability, affordability, walkability and accessibility to amenities.

In addition, shared and private green space would be prioritized. In other words, the goal would be to create this gentle density while preserving the integrity and characteristics of the neighbourhood.

Where Can Missing Middle Housing Be Built?

The City of Victoria’s Missing Middle Housing Initiative is proposing that these townhomes and “plex” homes be built amongst existing detached housing in established neighbourhoods. The goal is to create ground-oriented housing that can increase housing choices, affordability for those housing choices, walkability scores and overall sustainability. In short, a home that is affordable for the average family, which cuts down on the need to use a vehicle to get around, with plenty of green space and shared garden/yard space.

“We need to allow flexibility with missing middle — and high gentle density, without requiring parking. If we continue to build for cars, we’ll continue to foster car culture. If we build for families, nature and neighbourhoods, we will foster community.” – Survey Respondent

What has Been Done So Far to Encourage Missing Middle Housing?

Victoria’s Housing Strategy is working to provide solutions by widely engaging members of the public from neighbourhoods all around Victoria and the Capitol region. Between March 2020 and May of 2021, the city of Victoria requested feedback via meetings, surveys, workshops and virtual engagement.

The feedback requested has focused on everything from housing preferences to barriers preventing families and individuals from being able to move from a condo or apartment to a single-family home or house plex.

Some of the main findings in the discussions and surveys;

  1. Parking – Parking space and access to outdoor space were cited as two key reasons for residents wanting a family home or house plex. Proximity to public transportation options was also a key point.
  2. Housing Affordability – One of the highlights from the initial findings was “prioritizing affordability over luxury design” suggesting that potential owners much prefer the indoor and outdoor living space to fancy finishings and custom features. One respondent said: “Housing should be affordable first, accessible second and life improving third.” 
  3. Rental Options – Another needed solution is the increase in rental housing for seniors and students. Survey respondents suggested that one, two and three-bedroom homes in Missing Middle Housing be prioritized for these groups who are currently struggling to find suitable housing. This could create a spectrum of affordability for both owners and renters.
  4. Sensitivity to Different Lot Sizes and Variety of Housing – Allow for flexibility to create attached dwelling units, garden suites, secondary suites, townhouses, house plexes and more, with different combinations on the same lot.
  5. Space for Growing Families – As more people work from home during the COVID-19 pandemic, there is also a demand for slightly larger units so that families can have home offices. A few respondents mentioned the difficulty in living in small suites since the pandemic started. As one respondent candidly put it, “Families can’t love in micro spaces!”

What Are Some Main Concerns About Missing Middle Housing?

Along with positive feedback and an eagerness to move forward with this initiative, residents have also expressed concerns, such as:

  1. Viability – This type of more affordable housing may not be viable for builders and developers. Larger apartment and condominium developments are much more financially sound developments, by sheer volume alone.
  2. Crowding – May create too much density in primarily single-family neighbourhoods.
  3. Widespread changes – Some feel that this type of development could alter streetscapes, reduce the feel of a quiet residential community, reduce green space and result in the loss of tree canopies.
  4. Urgency – In this housing crisis, housing is needed now. Feedback from Victoria residents indicates that renters need access to affordable housing right now, not in five years. The sooner gaps in housing choice and affordability can be addressed, the better. There is also a real urgency for families and residents who feel there is no financially achievable housing option for them within the city, even with well-paying jobs and savings.
  5. NIMBYism (Not In My Back Yard) – Residents may oppose any additional development in their existing neighbourhood. Some residents have expressed worries that multi-unit housing types will bring in more renters, more commercial buildings (shops, restaurants, etc.…) and drastically change their quiet residential neighbourhood.

Missing Middle Housing is an Ongoing Debate

With so many pros and cons attached to the Missing Middle Housing Initiative, it’s no wonder that responses are so split. 

As pricing in and around Victoria, BC continues to rise with no real end in sight, the City of Victoria is pushing ahead with gathering as much feedback as possible and working to educate existing homeowners on the merits of this gentle density housing strategy. 

Educate yourself and have your say in the virtual open house today. Take the Phase Two survey, watch the video below and explore all the feedback from Victoria residents to learn more.

Thinking about a move and wondering what your home is worth in the current marketplace? With over 40 years of experience, our team is approved for most banks, credit unions and private lenders. We provide professional real estate appraisals from our home base in Victoria all the way to Nanaimo and the Gulf Islands. Contact us at D. Fritz Appraisals in Victoria BC today to request your real estate appraisal.

canadian housing prices to decrease in 2022

Housing Prices are Forecast to Decrease 20% Next Year

According to Industry Experts, Housing Prices May Fall in 2022

There Were Major Price Increases in Single-Family Housing and Multi-Family Housing in 2021

Housing prices have seen a huge increase over the last few years, with a particularly large leap this year. The median home prices in Greater Victoria surpassed a million dollars, at $1.2 million. Elsewhere on Vancouver Island, home prices also rose sharply. This rise has caused rental rates to spike, increased demand for housing and has made it very difficult, if not impossible, for first-time buyers to get their foot in the door of home sweet home.

The Housing Bubble May Already Be Shrinking

Thankfully, according to numerous reports from financial analysts, this overinflated housing bubble has begun to shrink in metro areas and will continue to shrink in 2022. Quelling fears that the bubble will burst, causing economic disaster, reports are showing only a slight decrease, with home prices being predicted to rise an average of only 3.7%, down from the original prediction of 4.0%. Still, any reduction is great news!

Why Are Real Estate Prices Forecast to Decrease?

Factoring into this decrease is a rise in mortgage interest rates. 2020 and 2021’s low interest rates have driven high amounts of investor activity, causing homes to be bought up in just moments after listing, or even before hitting the market. In an article by the Vancouver Island Free Daily, pent-up demand and extremely low inventory have also been driving factors for the rapid-fire sales.

“Fiscal stimulus, accelerating inflation and lessening support from the Bank of Canada all signal higher interest rates in the year ahead. Rising borrowing costs may also cool down housing market activity,” said Brendan LaCerda, senior economist at Moody’s Analytics. Part of rising borrowing costs is an increase in the Mortgage Stress Test, which has increased uninsured mortgage rates to 5.25%

Buyers who could snag a $900K home at a low interest rate will have a much tougher time qualifying for, and paying for, a $900K home at a higher, more standard interest rate. The positive changes to the CMHC’s First-Time Homebuyer’s Incentive certainly might help as well.

What Caused the Housing Buying Boom in the First Place?

Some industry experts believe a lot of the market demand this year could have been due to fear of missing out (FOMO), particularly for investors. It’s a classic case of supply vs. demand. It’s just like when you’re in a store and you see one item that you’re particularly drawn to and it appears to be the last one. It’s more appealing because it seems to be rare. You buy it, and as you walk out of the store, you see an identical item on the display. Suddenly, your one-of-a-kind item doesn’t have the same shine to it!

For home buyers, it’s roughly the same experience. The market scarcity is driving buyers to purchase pretty much whatever they can get, even if it’s well above asking. These buyers tend to believe that these prices are the new normal and this is their chance. Between record-high sales and record-setting low inventory, there’s a worry that buyers might be taking on more than they can afford, due to the low interest rates, according to Susan Perrey, a realtor and Zone 3 Director for the Vancouver Island Real Estate Board (VIREB.)

It hasn’t just been existing homes either, plots of land and new developments have been selling just as fast as the listing goes live. Now, according to the BC Real Estate Association (BCREA) levels of home sales will come back down to 2016 levels, the former peak level for home sales across BC.

According to an article by Western Investor, Brendan Ogmundson, BCREA’s chief economist said “we are coming off a record-smashing pace” where sales could reach 130,000 units or more this year following 94,013 sales in 2020, compared to the regular levels of about 80,000 transactions each year.

10 of 14 analysts said an interest rate hike would significantly tame the Canadian Real Estate market and housing demand. This supports all this speculation that a soft landing is expected for the market province-wide, with a slower pace in buying and selling and more balanced home prices.

In the latest real estate news, in an interview with BNN Bloomberg, Pedro Antunes, Chief Economist with the Conference Board of Canada, says that we can now “expect a 10% decline in average home prices over the remainder of 2021 and into 2022.”  This is great news, since a smaller decline in prices will help protect the market from a catastrophic crash – like the housing market crash in the US back in 2008 that sent shockwaves through the entire financial sector across the country, into Canada and around the world.

In all the reports for the future of Canada’s real estate market, the overarching message is that of hope. As long as the increase in interest rates and decrease in home prices are incremental, experts are hopeful that real estate markets on Vancouver Island and across the country will balance out.

Considering an Appraisal for Your Home?

If you’re considering selling or refinancing your home in the near future, it’s still very much a seller’s market. Wondering how much your home is worth? At D. Fritz Appraisals Inc., our team has over 40 years of experience and we’ve been the go-to appraiser during all sorts of market conditions. We can appraise your home for the most accurate valuation according to the market today. Our appraisers are certified, professionally insured and dedicated to providing the most precise property valuations possible. To help boost your home’s appraised value, take a look at our post on 8 ways to increase the value of your home, gather as much information as you can with our handy pre-appraisal checklist and then give us a call to book your home appraisal.