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Readers’ letters, Victoria Times Colonist, May 18, 2023

Parking requirements should be reduced

Some letter-writers have criticized the City of Victoria for approving new housing with little or no parking. I’m pleased to see Victoria finally move in this direction.

Right now nearly all existing housing in the region includes parking, whether it’s needed by the residents or not. Given the current housing affordability crisis, car-free households need more options so they don’t have to pay for parking that they don’t use.

It may seem inconceivable to some, but there are many households that are car free. Households may choose not to own a car. In other cases, they may not be able to afford a car, or cannot drive due to age, health, or disabilities.

According to the 2017 CRD Household Travel Survey, 20% of Victoria households don’t own a car. That’s about 10,000 car-free households just in the City of Victoria (and the report estimated 17,000 car free households across the whole region).

Victoria is not alone in this. A major shift now seems to be happening across North America, away from minimum parking requirements for new buildings.

Hundreds of cities have eliminated parking requirements in their downtown cores, and dozens more have eliminated parking requirements city-wide. California is eliminating minimum parking requirements across the state, for developments near transit.

Reducing parking requirements will improve affordability and equity, help to fight climate change, and help to create a built environment that is more welcoming to people.

Steven Murray

Victoria

We have proof that car-free living works

Re: “Car-free accommodation is a bit of a fantasy,” letter, May 16.

A car-free lifestyle is not a far-fetched idea – it’s already a reality for many.

As a downtown resident in a recently built 60-unit rental building with zero off-street parking spaces, I can attest to the success of the concept.

Many of the rental units have two people living in them. In my experience, on any given night there are five or six cars parked on the entire block from dawn to dusk. As a result, the basement bike storage is nearly full.

The apartment building is the only residential building on the block. Had off-street parking requirements been mandated, this building likely would not have materialized, nor at the slightly below market rental-rates.

The continuous expansion of dedicated bike routes and improvements to public transit will only further encourage additional residents to forgo their vehicles.

Keep to your vehicles if you want or need, but don’t assume your potential neighbours will do the same.

Trevor Premack

Victoria

Use better reasons to support museums

Re: “Why museums are still a smart investment for taxpayers,” ­commentary, May 17.

There are several viable justifications for government support of good-quality cultural institutions including their valuable contributions to our understanding of ourselves and our surroundings, their enhancement of our esthetic appreciation, their preservation and conservation of our shared past, and their enrichment to our quality of life.

But grounding their importance on the financial return from taxpayers’ investments in them is a bit of a stretch, especially when it relies on unspecified fiscal outcomes that are allegedly documented in un-named “studies.”

Such “economic impact analyses” typically rest their case on factors such as the taxes paid and goods purchased by workers employed in these institutions and by the staffs of their service-suppliers, which also pay business taxes.

But the validity of this argument relies mainly on the assumptions that such workers wouldn’t find alternative tax-paying employment and the businesses couldn’t sell their goods and services elsewhere, if our cultural institutions didn’t exist.

That seems unlikely, and advocates of supporting our exemplary museums, galleries and theatres might do well to defend their position by citing some of the other excellent reasons for backing them rather than relying on the monetary profits that they claim to produce.

Robin Farquhar

Victoria

Housing strategies vs. actual housing

Re: “’Depressing; report defines housing affordability in Saanich,” May 17.

Always disappointed, perplexed and irked to hear politicians invoke their own housing strategies like the Ten Commandments.

British art historian Sir Kenneth Clark said it decades ago. Political speeches about housing don’t reveal the truth about a society’s values. Houses do.

Affordability, not municipal housing strategy, defines reality today. Reading housing strategies will provide cold comfort to people facing unaffordable housing costs.

Yes, local governments need a housing strategy. But having one isn’t enough. It has to work for a reasonably diverse pool of consumers.

If it doesn’t, then it’s nothing to crow about.

Alec Tully

Victoria

What are the housing solutions?

Re: “’Depressing; report defines housing affordability in Saanich,” May 17.

Saanich feels it’s their citizens’ responsibility to provide affordable housing in one of the more expensive municipalities in the province. Perhaps Saanich should go about it a little more effectively than wasting more tax dollars and their time on a subject that’s been studied and debated to death.

Here’s a real simple solution. Launch a RRSP-able bond fund and sell housing bonds to raise the funds to build public housing on public land. There are billions of dollars in this geographical area sitting untapped in RRSP funds.

The only people benefiting from this currently are the banks. Why not harness that money for social projects to provide a decent return to the investor and provide the much-needed affordable housing.

If Saanich was remotely serious about their affordable housing shortage, other than for headlines, they would have changed the situation.

An area like Broadmead, which has hundreds upon hundreds of vacant suites, would be encouraged to rent the suites out, not discourage rentals as is the current situation.

Saanich council likes to talk the talk and are seemingly going in 20 directions at taxpayers’ expense. Perhaps they should focus their time and energy on the people who are living in Saanich and are paying property taxes.

Instead we get huge tax increases for nothing more than pet projects and redundant studies.

Housing is a problem. Everybody gets that. We haven’t heard any suggestions from anybody on council on how to deal with it other than to continue saying it’s a problem.

Where are their solutions? They have none, they are not in the solution business, they are in the problem business.

Doug Coulson

Saanich

Saanich needs to mind the gap

Re: “’Depressing’ report defines housing affordability in Saanich,” May 17.

I applaud Saanich council for examining what affordable housing costs “should be” in their municipality.

Undoubtedly, a significant percentage of current residents struggle financially to purchase or rent a home in Saanich and many would-be residents have to live elsewhere.

What’s missing are the current reference points of home purchase and rental costs in Saanich. While I am sure the gap is significant, putting a number to the affordability gap would be very helpful.

Howard Brunt

North Saanich

Trace high rents to assessment changes

Re: “Report: B.C. leads the country in evictions; most are no-fault,” May 16.

That B.C. has the highest eviction notice in Canada is not surprising, and neither is the timeline given.

The time that evictions took off, primarily for renovictions, was when B.C. Assessment started changing how they assessed properties.

Many apartment buildings were the retirement plan for people from all walks of life who saved their money, or a group of them did, to buy a building, pay off the mortgage and have an income when they retired.

Many of the owners knew their tenants, hardly raised their rents and were happy with the income.

The owners were local. They were tradespeople, they were professionals, entrenched in our community, caring about the people in their building.

The assessments were based on existing income. On average, most one bedrooms in these buildings rented for $800 to $900 a month, and two bedrooms were around $1,200.

B.C. Assessment changed the system to potential income, using one bedroom at around $1,500 and two bedrooms at $2,400, basically doubling the property taxes on the buildings.

This forced owners to sell the building and invest elsewhere. Basically, they were pushed out of ownership by the government.

These building were bought up by REITS and large foreign investors who did not have a vested interest in the communities and could afford to have empty buildings while they did renovations.

Renovations they did by evicting the tenants creating a shortage, then renting them out at the high rents you now see.

Gerald Hartwig

Victoria

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