Workforce Housing

Staffing challenges due to housing costs is the number one challenge for businesses on the Saanich Peninsula.

The chamber has identified that the key issue for staffing challenges is the cost of living on the peninsula. Our staff cannot afford to rent or own a home and live in the community where they work which leads to 70% of them commuting over 40km per day on average. We desperately need adequate workforce housing that matches both the current demand and the federal governments stated affordability ratio of 30% of household income spent on housing costs.

Our workforce is spending 70% of the gross household income on their mortgage or rent payment alone. Even with a 20% down payment buying a home on the peninsula a median household income buying a median house. This is more than double what the Canadian government has stated as affordable.

Historical local municipal policies are the number one reason we are now in, and continue to be in crisis around housing affordability.

For over 20 years housing supply has not met the true demand for housing on the Saanich peninsula.

We are now in a cost of living crisis and housing is the number one issue on the Saanich Peninsula that needs immediate action by our local maniple councils.

We are advocating for 3 things.

1 – Urgent Zoning for 20,000 new housing units

Based mainly on the current workforce that is working in each municipality our calculations show that we need 20,000 additional housing units on the Saanich peninsula just to meet the current housing demand that will help make housing more affordable. Here is what we are suggesting for each municipality to allow zoning for right away:

  • Central Saanich needs 8,593 additional housing units:
    • 1,547 – One Bedroom Units
    • 3,657 – Two Bedroom Units
    • 3,390 – Three Bedroom Units
  • North Saanich needs 5,225 additional housing units:
    • 872 – One Bedroom Units
    • 2,413 – Two Bedroom Units
    • 1,941 – Three Bedroom Units
  • Sidney needs 6,180 addition housing units:
    • 761 – One Bedroom Units
    • 2,416 – Two Bedroom Units
    • 2,003 – Three Bedroom Units

2 – Redefine how housing demand in calculated

Currently housing demand is based on historical growth rates not on the actual demand for units to live in in that area. It is a calculation of how many people “could” move onto the peninsula not how many people “need” to move into the peninsula. It is a summation of the housing starts “allowed” by municipalities and in no way represents the true needs for housing units.

Not only is the end result increased costs it is an environments nightmare that needs to be considered.

  • Over 70% of our workers are forced to commute
  • An average of 40km per day.
  • Creating over 68,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions per year!

We need to redefine demand by including jobs in the region as a key indicator to determine housing units needed so that we can balance the need and the environmental impact properly.

3 – Phase out R1 (Single Family) zoning on the Saanich Peninsula

Zoning reform is imperative to ensure a stable future. We know that this is a tough topic and that it could take years for our local governments to understand that you can protect property values without the use of exclusionary R1 (single family dwelling) zoning. We need to Advocate for R1 elimination hoping that it will, at the very least, be reduced in the short term and eliminated in the long term.

In 2019 the Canadian government passed Bill C-97 which, through use of the Canadian Housing Act, aligns Canada with international human rights. One of the human rights is the right to “adequate housing”. One of the criteria for “adequate housing” is “affordability” and the Canadian Government defined affordable as “30% of household income”

“Adequate Housing” includes these human rights.
  • Protection against forced evictions and the arbitrary destruction and demolition of one’s home.
  • The right to be free from arbitrary interference with one’s home, privacy and family.
  • The right to choose one’s residence, to determine where to live and to freedom of movement.
“Adequate Housing” must provide
  • Security of tenure: housing is not adequate if its occupants do not have a degree of tenure security which guarantees legal protection against forced evictions, harassment and other threats. 
  • Availability of services, materials, facilities and infrastructure: housing is not adequate if its occupants do not have safe drinking water, adequate sanitation, energy for cooking, heating, lighting, food storage or refuse disposal. 
  • Affordability: housing is not adequate if its cost threatens or compromises the occupants’ enjoyment of other human rights. 
  • Habitability: housing is not adequate if it does not guarantee physical safety or provide adequate space, as well as protection against the cold, damp, heat, rain, wind, other threats to health and structural hazards. 
  • Accessibility: housing is not adequate if the specific needs of disadvantaged and marginalized groups are not taken into account.
  • Location: housing is not adequate if it is cut off from employment opportunities, health-care services, schools, childcare centres and other social facilities, or if located in polluted or dangerous areas.
  • Cultural adequacy: housing is not adequate if it does not respect and take into account the expression of cultural identity. 

R1 Housing and our current municipal policies go against the very rights that our workforce deserves.

  • It treats housing as a commodity not a human right.
  • It is exclusionary in nature designed only to serve the wealthy who want to keep others out.
  • It forces money from middle class workforce renters into the hands of the already wealthier citizens.
  • It excludes most employees from living in, enjoying, and adding to the communities that they work in.
  • It negatively impacts the environment.
  • It uses more land per person reducing land useable faming and green space.

It’s time we start fighting for the human right to “adequate housing” on behalf of our workforce.