Neighbourhoods are for everyone

Screenshot 2018-06-01 23.15.30.pngAffordable Sustainable Housing (ASH) concept developed by Fairfield resident Gene Miller.

In the Gonzales neighbourhood, posters are popping up on poles with a picture of a single family home about to be demolished by an illustration of a bulldozer with a wrecking ball with the words, “City Planners” written on it.

The text of the poster goes like this: “Do you like the look of your neighbourhood? City planners are not happy with it! We have an award winning 2002 Neighbourhood Plan that is meeting the objectives of providing valuable housing opportunities and gentle densification. City Council wants to push through a number of aggressive densifying changes that will permanently change your neighbourhood’s character. Reclaim your power to plan the future of your neighbourhood. It has been taken away by city developers that supported your mayor’s campaign.”*

The “aggressive densifying changes” referred to in the poster are the addition of some three story buildings along Fairfield Road and the incorporation of townhouses into the Gonzales neighbourhood.

Above these posters another poster has been placed. It reads: “It’s easy to oppose densification from your single family dwelling. Got privilege? For every young family that doesn’t get to live here, one must live in Langford and commute. Let’s put an end to this NIMBYism.”

How do we resolve this conflict? In addition to townhouses, Fairfield resident Gene Miller has put forward one concept that might help. He calls it ASH – Affordable, Sustainable Housing. One ASH building is 2000 square feet and occupies about 40% site coverage on a standard city lot.  ASH is small-footprint living – ownership or rental – up to 12 suites, in a modest building that looks like a traditional two-and-a-half storey house with four units a floor (approximately 500sf one-bedrooms). With less units per floor, larger units could be incorporated to create homes for families.

ASH delivers up to 12 ‘front doors’ – 12 individual, private entrances distributed around the building.  This creates a sense of ‘arrival at home’ that lobby-and-corridor buildings of any size cannot provide. Each ASH building looks individual and distinctive, and the house-like scale and appearance go a long way to promoting neighbourliness and a sense of continuity and community on the street and within the ASH building.

Implementing the ASH concept and other forms of gentle density means there will be a significant increase in density in Gonzales. This will create new homes for families. At the same time, the look and feel of the neighbourhood can be retained. Here’s an idea Council might want to consider in the future: to save hundreds of rezonings, the City could create an ASH entitlement in the same way we have a garden suite entitlement – on any single family lot an ASH could be built, as long as there’s a mix of unit sizes and some form of clearly defined affordability in each building.

Victoria is growing. And as the single largest age demographic in the city according to the 2016 census – 25-29 year olds ­– start to have families, many of them will want to live in Victoria’s established neighbourhoods because they are amazing places. If we want a city that is inclusive and diverse, we must absolutely ensure that neighbourhood plans and neighbourhood residents make room for them.

*NB To put the statement in the poster in context, my 2014 campaign was funded 51% by corporate donations, 49% by individuals – the most even split of any candidate.

Originally published in the Victoria News here.


15 responses to “Neighbourhoods are for everyone”

  1. Hilarie Ann Higgins Avatar
    Hilarie Ann Higgins

    Great idea ! Let’s do it 🙂

  2. saxe pointe Avatar

    I guess My comment was removed. I’m not sure why?

    1. Lisa Helps Avatar
      Lisa Helps

      I didn’t see your initial comment. Can you try and post it again? I definitely didn’t remove it. Thanks!

  3. Veronica Green Avatar
    Veronica Green

    Ash sounds like a great idea, as well as being attractive housing. Hopefully it will alleviate the NIMBY concerns. Although I doubt it. As long as Victoria and Saanich and other areas pay more attention to the NIMBYS Than the housing crisis. They don’t care that when affordable housing is designed and then redesigned and then downsized that this is costing untold thousands. I understand that affordable housing built by non profits only charges tenants rents that will cover the actual cost to build and maintain buildings. The nimbys are pushing up the price of affordable housing incredibly. I wish people would realize that there is no more land to build on and it is necessary to densify.

    1. Anna Cal Avatar
      Anna Cal

      NIMBY is a divisive and dehumanizing stereotype, just like any stereotype. Respect your neighbours and respect yourself.

  4. John Stuart Pryce Avatar

    It all sounds great as long as it is available to residents first and not foreign buyers scooping up our real estate and escalating the rising prices.

  5. Anna Cal Avatar
    Anna Cal

    it’s a way better idea than rezoning and changing forever the established residential area in order to build an oversized,15 meter tall condominium. Remember 1201 Fort project? Those are selling for $1000 per square foot from the ground to the the middle. Penthouse in 6 storey condominium, that encroaches on what used to be a traditional residential area, is priced around $3,000,000.
    We asked the developer and our Mayor , repeatedly, to build exactly what is shown in the picture above. But our Mayor and the majority of the Council thought otherwise. My question is , who are NIMBY in this particular case?

  6. […] housing. Miller’s full of new buzz words: gentle density, and Affordable, Sustainable, Housing (ASH), that will deliver neighbourliness and sense of continuity. More housing hype—a plan to convert […]

  7. Anthony Danda Avatar
    Anthony Danda

    During the public hearing and through multiple pieces of correspondence over two years, many residents concerned with the scale of 1201 Fort made the exact same recommendation, using suggestions supplied by the city of Victoria, to build this type of structure on the R1-B lot off Fort Street in the middle of a residential neighbourhood. Here are the exact words from my speech at the public hearing, echoed by many others:
    “I have provided to the applicant and to mayor and council on a number of occasions my vision of what would represent a reasonable transition between the density on Fort and the traditional residential character of Pentrelew Place. I would like to see 2 and 3 storey houseplexes or courtyard housing on the R1-B lot. Everyone wins with this proposition. The applicant gets more density than the current zoning allows. The neighbours get a more reasonable transition to the existing neighbourhood. Even a document prepared by the city mentions the benefit of these housing types as providing family-friendly housing and maintaining the character of a single-detached streetscape.
    The OCP even calls out these housing types as appropriate for traditional residential zones by arterial and secondary arterial roads. How could this alternative not have been explored, endorsed or contemplated? How was this missed?”
    It seems a bit disingenuous to be encouraging this type of housing now as an equitable compromise instead of from the beginning of the application process two years ago. Citizens, who have day jobs and no financial gain in these developments, had to spend two years and countless hours raising concerns to you and council and galvanizing the public to act that culminated in over 150 people signing up for a public hearing that lasted three days, many who did not speak in the end because they could not wait 4 – 6 hours or come back another night for their 5 minutes because they have jobs and families to care for. The city’s request for feedback says “Your neighbourhood” but 80% of the feedback from neighbours within 100m was unsupportive as well as the Rockland Neighbourhood Association. Is that how you intend to resolve these land use disputes, rezoning applications and OCP amendments? Exhaust the citizens while allowing developers to maximize their profits as they play the system that you and council should be monitoring for fairness? You have proven that your preference is talk theory rather than take action like updating the archaic community amenity contribution policy, which could have been done years ago. And then to chastise citizens again and again for uncivil behaviour instead of addressing the root cause of that vitriol and frustration, including a legacy planning policy that disadvantages citizens and favours developers. Similar to the example above there were so many points made by citizens who did not support the project that were not addressed in your comments at the public hearing. Please stop the subterfuge and take active measures to address our concerns about engagement and land use planning.

    1. Lisa Helps Avatar
      Lisa Helps

      Anthony thanks for writing. I will be bringing forward a motion that addresses the challenges that you’ve laid out in terms of engagement and land use planning. I have developed this motion in concert with the Chair of Rockland Community Association Land Use Committee. Take good care.

      1. Anthony Danda Avatar
        Anthony Danda

        Thanks for the response, Lisa. Again, it’s a bit nebulous. Can you respond directly to why alternative compromises weren’t encouraged by you during the planning process and in the public hearing similar to what you’re supporting now? The neighbourhood would have been happy and the developer could have begun the project earlier. Instead it was two painful years for neighbours, the developer, council and staff that resulted in bitterness and mistrust. And let’s be frank. The developer gained substantially more than the community suffering from an affordability crisis. There was a feasible compromise on the table from the beginning but never encouraged by council or staff. Why?

  8. Susanne Rautio Avatar

    If people are curious to learn the actual reasons why the folks of Gonzales are unhappy with the draft neighbourhood plan for our area please go to

    1. Lisa Helps Avatar
      Lisa Helps

      Thanks for sharing Susanne. We look forward to continuing the planning process and to seeing the changes that staff make to the plan based on your extensive input and council’s corresponding motions. Take care.

  9. Lloyd Skaalen Avatar
    Lloyd Skaalen

    Thank you for these plans for livability; but, hand in hand transportation planning is also needed; personal car use must be restricted in favour of autonomous travel in mostly public transit options and reduction in space occupied by parked vehicles.

  10. SpiritMentor Avatar

    The ASH concept is a good exercise in theoretical housing. The reality is a different story and the illustration is misleading. There are four problems with this design: (1) Let’s say that there are about 20 people living in these twelve suites. That adds 20 people to neighbourhood density and increases the likelihood that people on that block will not know each other or have minimal interest in interconnectedness; (2) at 500sf per unit, that’s an exceptionally small space for couples, roomies and their stuff – such a small space will create stress and problems; (3) the two upper floors will not be easy for seniors or older persons to manage stairs, likely decreasing the potential for senior living; and (4) the 2 automobiles depicted in the illustration is an attempt to distract us from the reality of likely 12-14 additional cars parked on the street, since the building has no parking underground.


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