In October 2017, Canada Mortgage Housing Corporation (CMHC) surveyed 2,507 Canadians who intended to buy a new home in the next two years. “In regard to the type of home buyers are planning to buy, single detached homes are preferred by the majority, especially by Current Owners (74%). Apartments and condominiums come in second, followed by semi-detached houses including duplex, and townhouses.”
Evidence shows that most of us would prefer to live in a detached home with a yard. Despite there being nowhere affordable for most of us to live in this area, when higher density projects are proposed, residents express concern about the community losing its charm, about parking, increased traffic, the shadows created by new buildings and debate the esthetics and style. The reality is that most of the locals who resist are not the people who are desperate to get into the market. A condo or apartment is a welcome first opportunity for home ownership.
In the middle are the planners, who include the municipal staff and council, who make the decisions about density. They are entrusted with the vision of the community, its livability quotient, and must weigh the views of residents who may be concerned about how density decisions will affect their home values, views and enjoyment of the streets against those of the developers who are justifiably protective of their project’s financial viability.
What is most curious is the way developers are described and the expectations asked of them that would be asked of no other entrepreneurs. Their risks are huge. The returns are not a given. Not many of us would be willing to wade into an entrepreneurial venture of similar scale, the merits of which will be debated in very public settings and scrutinized to an extent that few of us would allow or enjoy in our own businesses.
The Official Community Plan is a document that incorporates the values, priorities and vision for a community. Much has changed since 2007-2008 when the three municipalities on the Saanich Peninsula adopted their current OCPs. It is time for a review. Developers have a right to build under law. Land is not zoned ‘vacant’. Giving stakeholders an opportunity to provide input to these important strategic, visionary land-use planning documents will provide greater comfort and certainty to residents, decision-makers, developers and investors. In practice, we are all investors in our communities.