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Newsletter January 2023

In this issue:

  1. “NEW” – Saanich Tenant Assistance Policy
  2. Mount Tolmie Hospital Shelter Update – PHS extension to Feb 28, 2023
  3. Meeting with Saanich Engineering
  4. Environmental Issues – Bowker Creek Watershed, and local flooding issues
  5. Comments from 2022 Annual General Meeting
  6. Appendix

Part 1) “NEW” – Saanich Tenant Assistance Policy

On Dec 15th, I attended a focus group with Saanich staff for a presentation, discussion of a new policy they were currently writing for a Tenant Assistance program. (Note, Victoria, Sidney, Vancouver, City of North Vancouver, Burnaby, etc, already have such Tenant Assistance Policies.)

The idea, indeed the potential need for such a policy in Saanich, was mentioned last year by senior Saanich staff during a council discussion on their interim development/zoning policy (aka upzoning policy, which allows for increased heights and density) and which impacts Mount Tolmie by conflicting with local action and area plans including the 2017 Shelbourne Valley Action Plan (SVAP) and 1998 Shelbourne Local Area Plan (LAP). This 2022 council decision remains controversial, as some areas in Saanich have only recently completed updated LAPs.

The stated reason for the new Tenant Assistance Policy was to “help mitigate the potential impacts of tenant displacement as a result of major renovations or redevelopment”. (My interest in attending the meeting on behalf of SCAN (Saanich Community Association Network) came from the knowledge of a Mount Tolmie resident who was evicted last summer along with her teenage daughter and tenant by a developer looking to redevelop a single family home.) 

The meeting covered three basic questions:

1) Who and what should be covered by the new Saanich Tenant Assistance policy?
Non-market housing, market-rental, secondary housing-rental?

2) What types of supports should be offered to displaced tenants?
First-right of refusal on renovated, redeveloped property, financial compensation, moving expenses, assistance finding a new home?

3) And what would a successful policy look like?

As part of their community engagement, Saanich staff were meeting with three groups; non-market housing representatives, community members and market-rental housing representatives. The meeting with community members, who were all renting in Saanich except for myself, was the 2nd of these planned meetings and the only one with community members.

We were told that staff would consider all input received and prepare a new Saanich Tenant Assistance Policy for council by the early Spring. I had received comments from a number of community members before the meeting and was pleased to learn that another community member from Mount Tolmie, whom I did not know, was also in attendance to share her experience in a larger rental property in the area.

See the appendix at the end of this newsletter for more details from the meeting. And, we will forward information on this new, and in my view very important, Saanich Tenant Assistance policy once we have it.

If you have any comments or would like to get involved with housing issues please contact the MTCA:

Part 2) Mount Tolmie Hospital Shelter Update – PHS extension to Feb 28, 2023

On December 20, 2022, BC Housing issued a letter to local residents, which some of you will have received, stating that they had reached an agreement with Island Health to extend the current use of the Mount Tolmie Hospital temporary shelter until Feb 28, 2023. (Recall that the current lease on the property expired Dec 31, 2022.) As discussed at former Town Hall meetings hosted by the Mayor’s office, we have been aware for some time that the shelter operator (PHS) was planning to move to a new permanent supportive housing facility once it was completed.

Part 3) Meeting with Saanich Engineering

Last summer, we suggested to Saanich Engineering that it would be helpful to hear from them on the work being done on Shelbourne St, as part of the Shelbourne Street Improvement Plan (SSIP); as well as, other issues, including road safety in Mount Tolmie, as we have received a number of comments expressing concerns. In December they indicated they would be happy to do so.

During the 2022 Municipal election campaign, a protest was held in Gore Park opposing the removal of trees along Shelbourne and a number of people have expressed real sadness at the loss of them. Accordingly, I will follow up on a meeting with Saanich Engineering and would like to know if other community members are interested in attending such a meeting.

If you are please contact the MTCA:

Part 4) Environmental Issues – Bowker Creek Watershed, and local flooding issues

On Dec 12, I attended a meeting of the CRD BCI (Capital Regional District Bowker Creek Initiative) Steering Committee, as the representative from Mount Tolmie. This group includes representatives from all community associations (including Saanich, Victoria, Oak Bay) that border on the Bowker Creek and are part of the Bowker Creek Watershed, staff from the CRD and city Engineering departments and representatives from the Friends of Bowker Creek. Consultants were present to discuss the work they have been doing on updating the Bowker Creek Blueprint – A 100-year plan to restore the Bowker Creek Watershed. This I believe is important, as daylighting and restoring the Bowker Creek is a main objective and it will be interesting to learn what if any new options are being considered for the Mount Tolmie area.

If you are interested in environmental issues, I would be happy to send you a copy or a link to the updated version of the Bowker Creek Blueprint, once I have it.

At our December 3rd 2022 AGM we heard some comments about flooding concerns. This caught my attention, as over the past year or so, we have heard from developers and residents about local flooding issues. Accordingly, if you have experienced any flooding problems yourself or are aware of flooding areas, please let us know about it.

When I mentioned to the BCI steering group that I was concerned about existing and possible future flooding in the Mount Tolmie area, as developments continue to remove rain infiltration area by increasing impervious surface area, (against the warnings in the SVAP and LAP), there was an interest in getting more details on the extent and seriousness of any flooding problems that exit or are developing in our/your area. After all, we live in a watershed and we know the climate is changing, which is likely to mean more extreme weather events, including increased severity of both dry and wet seasons.

Part 5) Comments from 2022 Annual General Meeting

First, I would like to thank all those community members who attended our 2022 AGM on Saturday, Dec 3. It was great to see you there and we certainly appreciated your comments and ideas. As we discussed, memberships will now be on a calendar basis and we think this will help avoid any confusion over term and ease with the administration, such that it is. And, while circumstances dictated a later AGM than hoped, the idea of an AGM in the Fall is appealing for several reasons. Date TBA later this year.

And, I am delighted to announce and welcome two new Board members to the MTCA:

  • Andrew Wickens, Treasurer and Board member
  • Greg Botten, Board member at large

With the recent retirement of some Board members, the MTCA is seeking new Board members and volunteers.

At the AGM, I mentioned how different Saanich councilors had criticized or questioned whether community associations were really representative of their communities. I take this to heart and would certainly like to see as wide a representation from the community as possible. It is difficult enough to deal with council at the best of times; so, I really hope more people come forward over the next year with a diverse backgrounds, skills, interests, concerns and ideas.

Accordingly, if you are interested in any of the issues mentioned, be they housing/development, the environment, community safety, community events, whatever the case may be, we would love to hear from you.


“NEW” – Saanich Tenant Assistance Policy

According to Staff, under consideration is to have the new policy provide additional support over and above that afforded by the BC Residential Tenancy ACT (RTA – 4 month’s notice, one month’s rent compensation, with no Right of First Refusal) including:

  1. Offer Right of First Refusal in a new development – a unit of comparable size and at comparable rent
  2. Cover moving expenses (moving company charge, or pay flat rate based on unit size)

The Tenant Assistance Policy would come into effect when:

  1. A Rezoning Application is submitted to the District and
  2. If approved, the rezoning would result in loss of rental units, requiring tenants to move out

It is also being considered for other application types including Development Permits, as “Best Practice”.

In terms of additional “policy supports”, there was discussion of:

  1. A communication plan where the applicant (developer) would keep tenants informed and updated of the process, provide contact information, share helpful resources and communicate with tenants in writing with copies to the District.
  2. The idea of a Relocation Coordinator, i.e., a person who would help tenants find new housing was also raised.
  3. Additional support for vulnerable tenants, where additional support may be offered to help apply for subsidized housing, additional moving assistance, help connect with health organizations or non-profit services.

As we have noted in previous open emails and at the AGM in early December, Saanich is in the process of Updating its Official Community Plan (OCP). This is an important document for the future development of Saanich and specifically the Mount Tolmie area, as transportation corridors (Shelbourne St and McKenzie Ave) and local environs/neighbourhoods are being targeted for development.

The OCP-update, due later this Spring, follows up on the earlier 2021 Saanich Housing Strategy (73 actions and headed by Saanich councilors Devries and Harper – see link below). Coupled with the more recent entry of the Province into Municipal affairs with their change in Public Hearing legislation, allowing for the elimination of public hearings for developments that fit with local OCPs all suggest the development approval process will face less scrutiny than in the past. Moreover, a series of statements on housing (building targets for selected municipalities, affordable housing, flipping tax, legalization of secondary suites, etc, see links below) by David Eby, who became Premier late last year after John Horgan resigned, all signal changes in housing / development / planning are being pushed somewhat down to Municipalities and communities.

Of course the housing situation needs to be addressed in some manner, but I believe this is a more complex problem than most politicians would have us believe. And, I certainly hope changes in housing policy are managed environmentally responsibly, equitably and humanely. And it is on this latter point where I believe Saanich has realized that it needs a Tenant Assistance Policy of its own. Of course, the policy details really matter and I am still looking for a meaningful definition and implementation of “affordable housing”. Both the Saanich councilors and the developers that I have been in contact with have all been rather vague in their responses.

Ryon Bateman, MESc, PHd
President, Mount Tolmie Community Association