Tag Archive for: housing

bc housing crisis

The BC Housing Crisis: What’s Being Done To Help?

How Are Your $12 Billion Tax Dollars Being Spent?

The BC housing crisis is top of mind for anyone struggling to enter the housing market, find a rental, or hold onto their current home during these difficult economic times. Home prices, rental rates, and property taxes continue to rise, and with those skyrocketing costs comes housing insecurity. At D. Fritz Appraisals, we understand that finding an affordable home to call your own in desirable British Columbia has become a significant challenge. 

A 2023 Leger poll found that 68% of British Columbians are concerned that they won’t be able to pay their mortgage or rent, and another 93% agree that increasing rental prices have become a serious problem. 

While the BC housing crisis is hurting British Columbians, the provincial government is attempting to facilitate faster home construction and increase the number of rental properties through several initiatives. 

Read on to learn how Stronger BC has made strides to deliver homes for people more effectively.

Stronger BC

As part of the BC housing action plan, the province has committed $12 billion (2023 budget) over the next 10 years to improve the housing market in BC. 

A few of the steps the Homes For People Action Plan has taken include:

  • Fixing outdated zoning rules
  • Locating homes next to amenities such as transit
  • Fast-tracking approvals
  • Managing speculators
  • Maximizing rentals by reducing vacancy rates
  • Shifting short-term rentals to long-term rentals

1. Zoning Changes

Zoning changes are making a difference to the BC housing crisis. Here are just a few of those changes:

  • Adding a second, third, or fourth unit to your home is becoming easier. New rules and standardized designs are helping home builders speed up the construction of small-scale multi-unit housing.
  • A Secondary Suite Incentive Program (SSIP) allows qualifying homeowners to borrow up to $40,000 in the form of a forgivable loan to help with the cost of adding a rental suite to their home. 
  • Changes to the Strata Property Act will allow children to live in many homes with previous age restrictions. Fifty-five plus stratas will remain unchanged. Condo owners belonging to stratas can now rent out their vacant units as long-term rentals.

By removing zoning barriers and building more small-scale multi-unit housing, people who have been priced out of the competitive market will have a more affordable entry point. 

2. Affordable New Construction

Efforts are being made to make housing in BC affordable for everyone. The provincial government has a few strategies in place to tackle escalating house prices.

  • Programs such as BC Builds have partnered with local governments, First Nations, and non-profit organizations to develop housing for middle-income households. BC Builds leverages public, community, and non-profit-owned land to speed up development and lower construction costs. 
  • Changes to rules and regulations will allow more homes to be built near rapid transit stations like the SkyTrain
  • Over 12,000 beds will be added to schools across BC for students living away from home
  • Municipalities will have housing targets to meet to keep up with projected growth

Along with these improvements, steps are being taken to assist BC’s most vulnerable,  including rent banks for people in temporary financial crises, supportive housing for those experiencing homelessness, and more complex care housing.

Want to take a deeper dive into middle-income housing? Check out our previous blog, Is Missing Middle Housing The Answer to Victoria’s Housing Shortage?

3. Fast Tracking Approvals

A Building Permit Hub has been created to automate parts of the application process. Applications will be checked to ensure they meet the BC Building Code and Energy Step Code, minimizing delays. With online permitting, permit review and approval will be easier and faster.

In addition to the Building Permit Hub, an application portal for natural resource permits has been created. The BC Housing Taskforce will work across ministries to guide the natural resource permitting process.

The single housing application service includes permits issued by:

  • Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy
  • Ministry of Forests
  • Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure
  • Ministry of Water, Land and Resource Stewardship

Along with over forty new staff, a Housing Navigator Service is in place to assist with questions and provide guidance.

4. Minimizing Speculators

The Speculation and Vacancy Tax (SVT) aims to turn unoccupied rentals into long-term rentals in communities with the most significant housing shortages. Residential property owners will be required to declare for the first time starting in 2025. The province has provided this interactive map to help you determine if your community is in the taxable area.

In addition to the SVT, the BC Home Flipping Tax, effective January 1, 2025, is expected to discourage investors. This tax applies to homeowners who sell a residential property less than two years after purchasing. Proceeds from the Home Flipping Tax will be used to build affordable housing.

Besides the above taxes, the Foreign Buyers Tax has been increased to 20% and expanded to include more communities. 

All these changes combined hope to deter and penalize speculators.

5. Protecting Renters

Houses to rent in British Columbia are becoming fewer and further between. The province has recognized that the low vacancy rate for rentals has caused rents to soar. To help mitigate the increased costs, renters with an adjusted income of $60,000 or less can claim a renter’s tax credit of up to $400/year.

More help for renters is coming. The Short-Term Rental Accommodations Act provides governments with stronger enforcement rules to restrict short-term rentals to principal residences, increasing long-term rental availability.

To further protect renters, rental rates have been capped at 3.5%, below the inflation rate, to improve affordability.

For Expert, Detailed, and Trustworthy Valuations, Trust D. Fritz Appraisals

The current BC housing crisis may be just the impetus you need to add a secondary suite or a small-scale multi-unit to your property. Perhaps you’re interested in taking advantage of the Secondary Suite Incentive Program. Look no further than D. Fritz Appraisals Inc

Let us appraise your new construction or renovation to ensure your lender financing is approved. Our certified real estate appraisers provide accurate property value appraisals for homes at all stages of construction.

Serving Victoria to Nanaimo and the Gulf Islands, our expert team is approved by most banks, credit unions and private lenders. Contact D. Fritz Appraisals Inc. today, and we can tailor an appraisal report to meet your lending, selling, and appraising needs.

missing middle housing

Is Missing Middle Housing the Answer to Victoria’s Housing Issues?

Uptake of the Missing Middle Housing Initiative is Off to a Slow Start

Victoria, BC, has been hailed as ambitious for its adoption of the progressive Missing Middle Housing Initiative in early 2023.

The initiative, which was approved in January after more than two years of research and consultation, aims to make it easier for developers to create multi-home developments that bridge the gap between apartments and single-family homes. The ultimate goal is to enable young families that are currently priced out of the single-family home market to achieve the dream of home ownership and remain living in and contributing to the city.

The Missing Middle Initiative removes the requirement for City approval for multi-unit plans on land previously zoned for single-family homes only, streamlining the process for these types of development to create a gentle density increase within residential areas.

As BC Government looks to introduce similar rules province-wide to help with the ongoing housing shortage, it seems, on paper anyway, that this initiative could make a positive impact on increasing the variety of housing available to buyers.

So why, a few months into the initiative, have no missing middle housing projects broken ground?

As Victoria’s premier appraisal service, D. Fritz prides itself on being up to date with all the housing market changes and developments in Greater Victoria. Missing middle housing promises to increase the pool of housing options for families who otherwise may feel they have to move away to achieve homeownership.

Read on for more information about what missing middle housing is, what the missing middle initiative aims to achieve, and what’s next for the missing middle in Victoria, BC.

What is Missing Middle Housing?

Missing middle housing is defined as a range of multiple-unit homes that are located in and are compatible with existing single-family home neighbourhoods.

Missing middle houses can be multi-plexes (duplex, triplex or fourplex) or townhome developments and are designed to bridge the gap between apartment living and single-family homes. These types of homes provide more diversity in the range of homeownership options, especially for young families who cannot afford to get into the single-family home housing market in Victoria.

According to the City of Victoria’s Missing Middle Housing Initiative, data shows that young people are leaving Victoria when they choose to start a family, in part because they cannot find affordable housing to meet their changing needs. By creating low-level, sympathetic density infill, missing middle housing will provide these families with the opportunity to enter homeownership and remain in the city.

Missing Middle Housing Initiative Purpose

The Missing Middle Housing Initiative was approved in January after two years of consultation, with the aim of making it easier to build alternatives to traditional single-family housing in Victoria.

The purpose of the initiative and its policies, which came into effect in March of 2023, is to:

  • Make it easier and faster to build multi-unit developments on what was previously single-family zoned land by removing the requirement for re-zoning applications.
  • Protect heritage or future heritage buildings by allowing low-density in-fill on the same plot.
  • Provide more housing choices within walkable, family-oriented neighbourhoods without impacting the aesthetics and feel of the area.

The initiative allows house-plexes, corner townhomes and heritage in-fill housing to be built on traditional single-family plots. Up to 6 houses can be built per plot without the need to re-zone. Missing middle developments must meet certain design and bylaw criteria, but overall the process will be faster and cheaper for developers.

Is the Initiative Showing Signs of Success?

The City of Victoria council has admitted that take up of the initiative has been slow so far, with some early feedback suggesting that this is because the cost to purchase land and develop multi-unit homes is too high for the projected return. It remains quicker and easier for developers to replace an older single-family home with a new one and also make a bigger profit than they would with a multi-home development. While this remains the case, missing middle housing may never expand as hoped.

However, while costs seem prohibitive currently, there are signs that developers want to divert to this type of project. Some recently completed multi-family developments, such as this one in James Bay, are positive examples of infill projects similar to those being encouraged by the Missing Middle Housing Initiative. 

This particular project was started before the initiative was passed and, as such, would have gone through many more bureaucratic loops before approval than would be required now. As the Missing Middle Housing Initiative takes a lot of these steps away, the future could be positive for developers with forward-thinking ideas like this.

What’s Next for the Missing Middle?

With the principle behind missing middle housing being lauded as one solution to the housing crisis and the likelihood of provincial uptake of some parts of the initiative, it is unlikely this approach will be completely rescinded. However, some additional changes and support may be required on a local and provincial level to help ensure its success.

Victoria City Council is already planning a review of the initiative, and further consultation with developers will likely be required to ensure processes and procedures support them in choosing to invest in and build this type of housing.

In June, Council also passed a motion tasking staff to track city policies that disincentivize the building of new ‘attached homes’ rather than single-family homes. This work will overlap and possibly feed into the future development of the Missing Middle Housing Initiative.

D. Fritz Appraisals for All Your Home Appraisal Needs

Whether you are looking to sell a home, purchase a new home, or are considering investing in a missing middle development, D. Fritz can help with all your appraisal needs.

With over 40 years of experience in the Victoria housing market, we can provide accurate and current valuations based on what the market is doing now and where it might go in the future.

We provide professional real estate appraisals from our home base in Victoria to Nanaimo and the Gulf Islands, and our team is approved for most banks, credit unions and private lenders. Contact us today to request your real estate appraisal.

 

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.