Housing, It’s All About Balance
Priority: We need to engage low densification strategies (secondary suites, duplexes,
townhouses, and triplexes) that will increase the availability of housing while respecting the
integrity of local neighbourhoods.
Action: Complete the secondary suite program and give direction to staff to align the Zoning
Bylaw with the Official Community Plan.
People I speak with are frustrated with the lack of housing options in our community. I have
spoken to a great number of seniors who want to downsize from their family home and are
passionate about remaining in this community and maintaining their social and recreational
connections as they age. But we are losing too many long-time Oak Bay residents whose
housing needs are not being met here. In making these options available for older adults
through townhouses and other low densification strategies, we free up larger homes for young
families. Young people, families in transition, and single parents also tell me they want housing
that has a range of price points, and, can be rented or owned.
Oak Bay needs an array of housing stock that corresponds to the demographic mix in our
community. I believe we need to engage low densification infill strategies (secondary suites,
duplexes, townhouses, and triplexes) that will increase the affordability and availability of
housing stock while respecting the integrity of local neighbourhoods. And expanding housing
options on the high traffic corridors, as per the OCP, can reduce pressure to densify in the
residential areas (see Oak Bay Village Plan).
Here are some examples of infill housing options contemplated in our Official Community Plan.
Secondary Suites. Most people in Oak Bay (85% Official Community Plan survey) want
secondary suites to be regulated. It’s is important to recognize that there are an estimated 800
unregulated secondary suites in Oak Bay. We are the last of two districts in the region to
regulate suites. Regulation will address parking issues and ensure suites conform to building
codes, minimizing fire and other safety hazards. In sum, regulated suites create a legitimate
housing option, can be mortgage helpers, and provide a way for some residents the ability to
‘age out’ in their community.
This past July, Council directed staff to engage the community to develop a secondary suite
program. It’s important to me that community residents have input into shaping the secondary
suite program and this will be high on the agenda for the new council.
Non-conforming Duplex Properties. There are about 85 existing legal non-conforming duplexes
in the District. Without legitimate zoning, owners of these properties are reluctant to upgrade
or renovate. This is because there is no duplex-specific zoning bylaw, which make upgrades or
renovations unpredictable and administratively onerous for property owners; further, because
the property is on one fee simple lot, ability to purchase one side of a duplex as separate property is denied to residents who wish to downgrade or spend less. To remedy this situation
Council will need to direct staff to create a duplex zoning bylaw for these legal non-conforming
Heritage Conversions. Homes in Oak Bay with a heritage (historical) character contribute
significantly to the unique character of our streetscapes and community. They are precious. In
spite of achievements by our Heritage Commission to designate increasing numbers of heritage
homes, designations are being outpaced by demolitions, and heritage houses are being
replaced by new builds that maximize square footage. To disincentivize demolitions we can
introduce a heritage conversion zoning bylaw that will encourage preservation of the heritage
building in exchange for increased density like rentals or condos. A heritage conversion bylaw
would serve three functions: preserve the heritage buildings, retain streetscape, and offer new