This is a blog post to keep track of the momentous changes that are happening in our historic neighbourhood at 1201 Fort Street. These changes were mandated by Mayor Helps and Councillors Alto, Lucas, Thornton-Joe, Coleman and Loveday when they voted to approve the zoning change for this large property of almost 2 acres.
They voted to change the character and density of Victoria’s historic Rockland neighbourhood to create more housing, in the belief that creating luxury housing will create affordability through the process called filtering, better known as ‘tricky-down’ economics. They voted to approve an increase in the allowable buildable space in this new development by 4,000 square meters – that’s 43,000 sq ft – over the normal zoning of 6,000 square meters. (That means that for every 100 sq ft of built space in Bellewood, the City awarded the developer 40 sq feet.)
And, none of this space could be considered affordable as the selling price is in the range of $1,000 per sq foot in a city where the average income is about $56,000 per year. The nine townhouses are listed for sale at approximately $1.75 million plus, which in this development is a true bargain, at less than $1,000 per square foot. Yet, these same townhouses are priced at about 1.5 times to 2 times the price of the homes in the immediate neighbourhood.
In the opinion of Mayor Helps and still-current councillors Thornton-Joe, Alto, and Loveday, their vote to approve this proposal was the best possible land use decision possible during, what is considered to be, Victoria’s worst affordability crisis.
And, what does this development, this gift of almost $43,000,000 to the developer, return to the City? How many affordable homes will come of this subsidy to the already wealthy? Is subsidy the right word? Is gift the correct term? Sadly, the number of affordable homes that will come from this 43,000 extra square feet of buildable space awarded to the developer in the rezoning is based on a promise.
The builder has pledged to build 10 affordable ‘homes’ in another development, specifically 1010 Fort Street, within 2 years of the approval, that is by May 2020. If these homes are not built, then the developer will pay $250,000.00 to the City.
That reduces the promise of affordable housing to a cash price of $250,000 to the City for 43,000 square feet of new buildable luxury space for the developer. Just by way of an example, that is $250,000 cash for affordable housing for over $40,000,000 extra in luxury condominiums, in a project worth over $100,000,000.00
What the City gets compared to what the developer gets from the extra 43,000 square feet of the rezoning:
250,000/40,000,000 = 1/160
Of course, in the real world of Victoria real-estate $250,000 will almost buy a one bedroom or studio condominium. The decision by the Mayor and the 3 councillors who voted for this rezoning was to accept this offer from the developer as the best possible land-use decision.
If you wonder why we have built so little affordable housing in Victoria in the last 5 years, you need look no further than the politicians who make land-use decisions like this.