British Columbia

Mayoral candidates disagree on housing strategies in Oak Bay

Both of Oak Bay's mayoral candidates agree the area needs more housing options, but they don't agree on how it should happen.

CBC Radio 1 takes a look at a key issue in different municipalities up until election day on Oct 20

A proposed development on the Oak Bay United Church property is an option for affordable housing in the area — a big election issue for both mayoral candidates. (Google Maps)

Both of Oak Bay's mayoral candidates agree the area needs more housing options, but they don't agree on how it should happen.

Incumbent Mayor Nils Jensen introduced the option for homeowners to rent out secondary suites in the district's 2015-2018 strategic plan, which has been in community consultation since May 2015.

Jensen says he plans to pursue the plan and pass legislation should he be re-elected. 

He argues offering secondary suites as rental units would allow young families to supplement their mortgages, while making use of existing units to provide more affordable housing.

Incumbent Mayor Nils Jensen, left, and current city councilor and mayoral candidate Kevin Murdoch in a debate on development in Oak Bay. (CBC)

Jensen's also proposing using public lands for multi-unit housing and encouraging more churches to consider offering their land for housing.

"I'm hearing people want options, so when they get older and they have a big house, they want to be able to sell it and stay in the community," he told On The Island's Gregor Craigie.

Jensen said he's heard the call to action from Oak Bay residents and is keen on moving forward with incremental steps to get secondary suites on the market and begin talks about multi-family developments.

Current councillor and mayoral candidate Kevin Murdoch argues it takes too long to get anything built due to Oak Bay's current zoning and development policy, which assesses each development application individually.

"Every application is considered on its merits, but that also means it's very political," he said.

Murdoch proposes streamlining development zoning and approvals.

He says developers and homeowners looking to add small-scale density to their neighbourhoods are losing out to larger developments because of the lack of regulation.

"Our Official Community Plan lays out quite a few different housing options … everything from multi-family right through to duplexes and townhomes, but we actually need the regulatory framework to see those built," he said. 

Murdoch said he's heard the same feedback from the community, that it needs more options for housing, but he's finding it difficult to provide that under the current policy.

He says the secondary suite plan laid out by his opponent would take two years and that's too long to address the current housing shortage.

With files from On The Island

To hear the full interview listen to media below:

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