A leading advocate against homelessness in Greater Victoria says he would like to see modular housing in every community of the Capital Regional District, including Sidney, North Saanich and Central Saanich.
“[Greater] Victoria is made up of so many different municipalities, my objective is to open some modular housing in the CRD,” said Don Evans, executive director of Our Place Society, in an interview with the Peninsula News Review several days after speaking in Sidney earlier this month.
“If we had every municipality provide one location for 40 to 50 units of modular housing, it wouldn’t have a negative impact on any of the communities, because they [would be] small, they would be well-run, they would be staffed,” he said. “This problem would be cleared up.”
Evans said he has not yet approached the three municipalities as current efforts focus on winning the support of municipal officials in the City of Victoria, then in the District of Saanich.
One issue that will help determine the success of this initiative is the availability of land. “Last year, the provincial government announced 2,500 units of modular housing. We should have gotten about 10 per cent of that based on the population, which is about 250,” he said. “We got 21 units — almost nothing. Nobody would give up any land.”
But if land is a necessary condition for modular housing projects, it is also insufficient. They also require support from residents in communities themselves — support that ultimately determines whether their respective municipal leaders will come on board.
“If we don’t get the neighbourhoods and the municipalities on side, we are not going to address this problem,” he said.
What municipal leaders currently hear is “anxiety of [their] residents,” said Evans. “We need to counter that [by reducing fear and anxiety] and start to push our municipal politicians to take advantage of the opportunities with the provincial government.”
So how much support does Evans anticipate from residents in the Saanich Peninsula, a rural region removed by geography, sociology and political leanings from the core communities?
“We know that Sooke is a community that is very supportive [and] they are very rural,” said Evans, adding some outlying communities have more land available than core communities. “So some of the outlying municipalities, as long as they are on good bus routes and close to services, they can be pretty good locations. I do understand your question though about the resistance of some of the municipalities. We know that is going to be our biggest challenge. So it is about communication and working with people.”
Ultimately, residents on the Saanich Peninsula do not live isolated from the rest of the region and have a stake in finding solutions to the symptoms and causes of homelessness, which do not confine themselves to downtown Victoria, he said.
“We should all care about people that are vulnerable and marginalized and do we what can do no matter where we live,” he said. “If people actually see the challenges and understand it, they certainly want to see a solution to it,” he said later. “It’s all our community here. People do care. Our support for Our Place comes not just from Victoria, but from the whole region.”