If you live in Saanich with more than three roommates, you could be evicted from your home. That is straight. up. wrong.
But, this week, we have a chance to fix it.
For decades, students and other tenants have been evicted from their homes because of an outdated, discriminatory bylaw that prevents more than four unrelated people from living in the same dwelling.
Does this bylaw seem absolutely absurd and unjust to you? We think so too.
Saanich Council has proposed an amendment to Zoning Bylaw 5.20, increasing the number of unrelated people that can share a home from four to six. On Saturday, June 20, 2020 at 10 am, students and tenant advocates will show their support for this change at a Saanich Council public hearing .
It typically costs over $1500 a month to rent a one-bedroom apartment in Saanich, if you can even find one. That’s simply out of reach for the majority of single people in this municipality. Since the onset of the housing crisis, local renters have been increasingly burdened by housing costs, with many paying as much as half of their incomes for a room. This bylaw amendment will help lower the cost of shelter by sharing the cost of rent across a greater number of residents.
When students are unable to afford to rent legally, they are forced to live above occupancy limits, leaving them without tenant protections, at increased risk of domestic or sexual abuse, vulnerable to predatory landlords, and living in unsafe or illegal spaces.
Many Saanich homes have more than four bedrooms, however the current bylaw bars more than four unrelated tenants from legally filling those rooms. Students are forced to either cross off those options in a tight market, waste money and rooms by living with fewer people, or live in violation of the bylaw. In the face of coronavirus-related economic turmoil and a local housing crisis, this is inefficient and simply unacceptable.
Some opponents of this necessary, inclusive increase have relied on unfounded stereotypes of students as disruptive to neighbourhoods, citing issues such as noise and crowding. But this bylaw is not about parking, noise disturbances, or unsightly premises. Saanich has many other bylaws to keep those individual issues in check. A bylaw that keeps many homes in this municipality off-limits to residents based on marital and family status is unnecessary, discriminatory, and disproportionately impacts the lives of students and low-income renters.
The UVSS urges all Greater Victoria residents to express their support for this Bylaw amendment by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org by Friday, June 19 at noon. A coalition of students and the Victoria Tenant Action Group will be attending the meeting to advocate for changing the Saanich Zoning bylaw 5.20.
All residents in Saanich deserve to feel safe and secure in their homes—stop the criminalization of roommates in Saanich.
The University of Victoria Students’ Society Victoria Tenant Action Group
ON JUNE 1, Saanich Council reviewed the 2019 Saanich Audit Findings Report for the Year Ended December 31, 2019. The report included Appendix 1: Residential Tax Burden per Capita that indicates Saanich has historically lower taxes than the average of other CRD municipalities.
Residential Tax Burden per Capita is a flawed measure, and is not used by the BC Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing in assessing property tax burden.
The true calculation of property tax burden used by the Province is Taxes and Charges on a Representative House. This is because each 'resident' doesn’t pay property taxes and fees, but each 'representative house' does. A per capita analysis doesn't account for the impact of demographics, such as residents in rental and seniors housing, and age composition.
Using the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing's Taxes and Charges on Representative House measure, a completely different picture emerges. In the case of Saanich and Victoria, the past seven year average of Municipal Taxes and Charges for Saanich is $3,506, versus that of Victoria at $3,480, – a negligible difference of less than 1%, with Victoria slightly lower.
Why is this important? Because inaccurate measurements of tax burden can be used to provide erroneous and misleading information to the public before and during the forthcoming Saanich – Victoria Citizens' Assembly (CA) process. It creates the impression that the tax burden in Saanich is lower. It is not.
Once the COVID-19 concerns have subsided, an independent consultant’s review via the CA will compare Saanich and Victoria 'apples to apples'. Through this process, the CA will make a final recommendation based on factual data.
We look forward to the deliberations of the CA to assess options for future municipal governance for the 2/3 majority residents of the Greater Victoria region.
Dear Dr. Henry,
First of all, thank you for the work you and your staff are doing during this pandemic.
In your June 1st address to the public you announced that this is the start of Seniors Week. You said, “Taking care of those who are older is incredibly important…We know and we have said this many times over the months…our seniors and elders are vital to the well-being of our community, they are the keepers of our history… Let’s take the time this week to honour our seniors by doing all we can to care and protect them.”
These are noble thoughts and words, but unfortunately for the seniors and elders of the Burnside Gorge neighbourhood in Victoria not only is this not happening but to the contrary, the actions of governments (federal, provincial and municipal) have actually done the opposite. By suddenly, and with no warning, placing hundreds of tent city homeless people in motels in the Burnside Gorge neighbourhood, (on top of the great number of “supportive housing” sites, etc. already there) governments have caused a health crisis among the seniors and elders in Burnside Gorge whom you say should be protected and cared for. You have said, and statistics show, that seniors and elders are at the greatest risk during this pandemic, yet these risks are being greatly increased by well-intentioned, perhaps, but failing government policies and a shocking lack of support for Burnside Gorge.
Burnside Gorge is not a NIMBY neighbourhood. Only a little more than a year ago the Ministry of Housing signed a written promise to the Burnside Gorge neighbourhood to not place any more supportive housing in Burnside Gorge, due to the fact that the neighbourhood already is the location of 80-90% of all the supportive housing in Greater Victoria. That agreement was broken, without any warning at all to residents.
As we know, stress is a major health risk. The seniors and elders (and others) in Burnside Gorge are being subjected to the extreme stress of the risk of living in a neighbourhood where crime and the threat of violence are suddenly skyrocketing out of control. Theft, gross public indecency of all manners, needles, prowlers, graffiti, garbage, noise, harassment, and even threats of violence and death. (see Times-Colonist, May 28, 2020 “Neighbours Report More Disruptions After Homeless Campers Move Into Hotel.”) This is not hyperbole. This is the lived experience in Burnside Gorge today. Many seniors and elders now live in fear of not only going out their door, but also of who might come in.
This whole issue is a major health risk for these seniors who have up to this point only received continuous buck passing and noble words from government officials. Community leaders have repeatedly contacted and called for all levels of government to intervene to save these vulnerable seniors and elders (and others). All to no avail.
In my own case, while simply walking outside on Gorge Rd. on a sunny afternoon a few days ago, getting the fresh air that you yourself have repeatedly advised us to take to maintain our health, I encountered a man who suddenly pulled out a three foot long silver, shiny, curved sword and began waving it wildly and slashing in the air. Terrified, I escaped to a wooded area across the street. An isolated case? I later learned that a woman had been confronted with the same terrifying experience just one hour before, in the same block. The man was never located.
Weapons confiscated by Victoria Police from one car two blocks from where I was accosted:
Even though you live in Victoria, I wonder if you even know that all this is happening. After all, Victoria’s famous double-decker tour buses don’t include Burnside Gorge on their city tours and the media has virtually ignored this situation. I can’t imagine you would know about a major health issue such as this, and deliberately turn a blind eye and do nothing and say nothing. Please reassure us that you have not known about this local health issue and ignored it, but that now you will act immediately.
As I watch and listen to your public updates, I hear lots of questions from reporters asking about when hockey will return and when will camping be allowed in the parks. I have yet to hear one single question about the health crisis governments are causing among Burnside Gorge seniors and elders. It is a neighbourhood health crisis which never shows up in the daily statistical updates. I sincerely hope that the journalists who are allowed questions will raise this important matter so everyone knows what is going on in Burnside Gorge and to give you ample opportunity to reply.
I know you are not in charge of policing. I know you are not in charge of housing. But you are the Provincial Health Officer and as such, you have great powers in matters of public health, especially in the middle of not one, but two, officially declared medical emergencies currently in B.C. But more importantly, in my opinion, is the position of moral leadership you now hold in this province and some would say, indeed, around the world. Many people trust you and listen to you. The public and even the government have expressed confidence in you in many ways. Your words count more than probably any other person in B.C. during this health crisis. Burnside Gorge seniors and elders now live under a double threat to their health: corona 19, and public safety.
Please use your position to immediately do what you can to end this dramatic and serious health risk that Burnside Gorge seniors and elders are living under on a daily basis. Governments have failed in this regard. Burnside Gorge needs your immediate attention. Until then, it cannot be truthfully said that all seniors and elders in B.C. are being honoured and protected as you have repeatedly called for.
This is Seniors Week. Noble words are not enough in this case. Quick intervention is needed now.
Help. Please. No one else is listening. You are the last hope.
Burnside Gorge, Victoria
THE HORRIFYING MURDER of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis police two weeks ago has galvanized communities around the globe in actions of protest, demanding racial justice and police reform. The violence and racism targeted at Mr. Floyd and so many Black and racialized people is a distressing reminder of the deeply ingrained systemic inequities that persist in our society. These systemic inequities persist in Victoria as they do elsewhere.
The structures that uphold white supremacy have existed since the emergence of the concept of a racial hierarchy in the 17th century. Throughout the colonial period these concepts were used to justify the enslavement of black bodies and theft of Indigenous lands. Police violence, mass incarceration, and the state’s disregard for Indigenous sovereignty are but a few demonstrations of our adherence to the systems built around this long-debunked, 400-year-old European pseudoscience.
It is appalling that more than 50 years after the Civil Rights actions and achievements of the 1960s, we are once again forced into this level of protest. It is our deepest hope that the work that has been done to analyze and understand the origins, mechanics, and seeming intransigence of white supremacy and systemic racism, has provided the tools to dismantle them once and for all.
The concerns of Open Space, an artist-run centre in Victoria, British Columbia, might seem very far away from the rage-filled responses we are seeing in urban centres across the USA. However, not that long ago, our commitment to Indigenous curatorial and cultural practices and BIPOC artists and communities came under direct attack. The work that Open Space had undertaken in order to dismantle the colonial structures at its foundation elicited, for some, a response founded in fear and a threat to their unacknowledged privilege.
While Open Space has recovered admirably from the events of 2018 there remains a rift in Victoria’s cultural sector. Through the situation at Open Space, it became evident that there is a stark divide in Victoria’s artistic community between those who are committed to dismantling white supremacy, and those who would rather maintain the privileges they experience because of it. Some engaged in this actively; for those who claimed neutrality and remained on the sidelines or looked the other way, we hope you are starting to understand the insidious nature of systemic racism and the necessity to combat it at every level.
In the face of the horrific images of the violent abuses towards Black and other racialized bodies we see of late, it is nearly impossible for people of conscience to argue with the cries for justice. We ask that everyone take the time to think through how their silence, disregard and/or resistance to change has contributed to upholding the systems of oppression that have led us to this grievous and unbearable time in our history.
Hunter Boucher, Charles Campbell, Eli Hirtle, Michelle Jacques, Doug Jarvis, Megan Quigley, Sabrina Williams
IT JUST CONTINUED TO ROLL ON AND ON month after month, well, that is, up until COVID 19 appeared on the scene. Prior to that, it was all the media’s attention focused on climate action protests; crowds out in the street or demonstrating in front of our legislature demanding action!! Action!! Stop the pipeline!! No LNG plants on our coast!! Keep them oil tankers out of local waters!! etc. etc. And so it rolls on, all of us peasants’ attention totally devoted to the supply side of this burgeoning disaster. What makes it particularly sad and distressing is that we have yet to examine this cultural development more thoroughly, say, by stepping back and looking at ancient history.
Like if we go back a few centuries, it certainly comes across—what with climate change well underway—how we are most likely headed for civilizational collapse. This is what happened with the Maya and Sumerians after they overworked and trashed their local environment in order to maintain their overly sophisticated cultures and ever-growing populations. So that being said, it is not the supply side of the equation we should devote all our energy to in order to slow it all down, what with us overloading our atmosphere with carbon, but the demand side!!
Whether it is alcohol, tobacco, cocaine or fentanyl, if there’s a big demand for a particularly addictive consumer product, some entity, whether legal or otherwise, will be most eager to step forward and feed that habit in order to reap a danged good dollar! So it is with the oil and gas extraction industries, which have been most delighted to step up to the plate to garner excellent returns. Yup, they are there for us to ensure we continue on with our addiction to fossil fuels. Like it is with highly addictive drugs, it is a total waste of time trying to rid ourselves and punish the producers of these products. Yes, the oil and gas industry does operate on the legal side of this demand, but you can bet your bottom dollar that both our provincial and federal ministry offices remain well- booked with appointments with lobbyists working for the industry to keep it that way.
That all being said, it is far past time for all of us to get serious and dry out from our addiction to Shell, Petrocan, and Chevron. Still, it’s going to be tough since our identities are so tied into our vehicles what with car makers having designed them so they would morph into extensions of our personalities in order to pull off good sales. With all the millions upon millions of infernal (internal) combustion engines being fed by the global petroleum industry, we will continue to roll on with ever increasing warming of the atmosphere. The lead cause of climate change can be laid directly at the feet of all the tons and tons of carbon pouring out of our exhaust pipes daily.
Still, it might be too much to ask what with our total cultural dependence on our motor cars in maintaining our society. So maybe we should start off by takin’ it slow. So if we were to make a commitment to drying out, let’s start with: no more gas powered garden and lawn equipment. You know, them noisy neighbourhood mowers, weed eaters and rototillers. Yup, we gotta go back to using ole push mowers, lawn clippers and shovels! I mean, when you think about it, the exercise will be good for us all what with so many out there these days so obviously overweight and out of shape. Then we will move onto our gas-powered recreational toys; play things like gasoline- and diesel-powered recreational boats. I mean it’s far past the time we got back to strictly oar and sail out there on the water. Then all those noisy off-road four wheelers which are so invasive and intrusive for all of us who head out for a quiet hike or pedal bike tour out in the woods.
And then what’s with Joe Average living here in suburbia on the island, having to own and drive an oversized four-wheel drive Dodge Ram crew cab truck powered by one massive 5.7 liter hemi engine? Rather pathetic, too, since one never, ever sees a spot of dirt on their shinny paint jobs, like strictly used for drivin’ to the mall, liquor store and golf course. Like an old bud of mine that used to live out in Mitchell Bay at the far end of Malcolm Island drove back and forth into town (Sointula) ten miles over a beat up gravel logging road in all sorts of inclement north island weather. Looking back to those years, he said he could never figure why everybody and his dawg these days just has to own a 4x4 since he managed just fine with his rusty old two wheel drive pickup out in the sticks. Then there’s all the young folks today who continue on following in the path set by their elders.
Like just this past summer, there was that big demonstration by all our high school students down there at Filberg Park up here in Courtenay. More chanting and screaming: Climate Change!! Climate Change!! Government do somethin’!! Oil and gas industry: Cease and Desist!! Cease and Desist!! Cancel Trans Mountain Pipeline!! So, yeah, totally focused on the supply side of the equation while they continue to follow their parents’ bad behaviour by becoming majorly addicted to fossil fuels. Don’t believe me? Just check out the traffic pile ups in front of all our local schools at the start and finish of the school day. Like there’s mom after mom after mom…driving up with little Johnny or Joanne to drop them off or pick ’em up. And what’s with that? So my suggestion, another demonstration but this time demand action now: “More school buses!! More buses!! More side walks and bike lanes!!”
I mean back in Jurassic times when I was going to school down in Victoria back in the 1950s and ’60s, all of us either walked or biked to Doncaster Elementary with some of us doin’ one or two miles one way a day. Like even when I finally got to attend Oak Bay’s plumy high school, which had some 1,200 or so students enrolled in it back then, there might have been only five or ten of us that were ever dropped off by car at the door. And today? Man, it’s the exact bloody opposite!! Five or ten young folks might walk or bike to our local high schools while all the rest get driven there by mommy.
Anyway, enough ranting for now. Gotta jump in my car cuz its time to head off to Chevron and gas up my 1968 Buick Riviera with high test Supreme needed to drive its 430 cubic inch!! V-8. Man, she goes like bat outta hell but not only that, I really look like somebody when drivin’ around in the Valley in this gorgeous old land yacht!!