Victoria mayor proposes billeting to fight housing crisis

Victoria has 0.5 per cent vacancy rate, and Mayor Lisa Helps says one solution could be homeowners opening up their homes and taking people in.

Mayor Lisa Helps says there's a shortage of housing and industry is 'hungry for workers'

Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps wants to start a conversation about using billeting to house people experiencing homelessness. (Andrew Clippingdale/DoddsEyeMedia)

Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps says billeting — homeowners lodging people in their homes not necessarily for pay — could be a solution to the city's housing crisis.

Helps said she got the idea of billeting from the general public and through historical research.

"It's exactly what happened [in Victoria] during the war. The mayor at that time called on people to open their homes to people that were coming to Victoria to work in the war effort, in the war industry," she said.

"People opened their homes and took working people in."

While there's no war going on in Victoria, Helps said, there is a construction boom and the city's tourist and tech industries need workers.

"There are lots of workers and a shortage of housing for them."

At 0.5 per cent the city has one of the lowest vacancy rates in the country, she notes.

Helps says billeting might not necessarily be paid accommodation.

"People might think to invite someone into their home on a temporary basis maybe in exchange for work around the house. Working people could obviously pay," she said.

She is quick to emphasize that the idea is merely at the conversation stage.

Yesterday, she asked for three homeowners and three people seeking housing to come together to form a focus group with herself and a few other city workers.

"It's quite ridiculous to ask people to move in with strangers without anything in place. The idea is to get people to help us determine what would a solution need to look like. What would the homeowner need to know, what would the renter need to know to develop the beginnings of a solution."

Listen to the interview with Lisa Helps from On the Island:

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