I went to the council meeting on Monday night and was pleased to see that some new apartments are coming to an existing apartment building at 2181 Haultain. The owner is going to divide a 5000 sq ft space into two apartments, renovating up some dead space that apparently had been used as commercial office.
You would think that the current council would have supported this right away, given the extreme need for rental accommodation in this city. Instead, the owner, who wanted to put in five units, almost didn’t succeed. The development needed a variance to do with parking spaces and the subsequent discussion almost killed the proposal.
The irony of allowing two units instead of five is that anybody who is wealthy enough to rent a 2500 sq ft apartment in Oak Bay is likely wealthy enough to own two cars. Or they get rented by students, all of whom might have cars. The net result is that it is unlikely that this will produce less parking problems than the five units, which would have cheaper to rent and thus more likely to attract people without a car.
All of this points to the evil that minimum parking bylaws create. New buildings are built with too much parking, encouraging car ownership and older buildings that are being renovated end up having to get a variance, a process that is fraught with failure and uncertainty.
The new Oak Bay council needs to take a leadership position on the development of new rental accommodation and not wait until owners take the initiative to push this through. I want to see Oak Bay be part of the solution to our housing crisis, not stuck on the sidelines, wondering what to do.