The CRD and its Capital Region Housing Corporation (CRHC) is Getting Ready to Expand Affordable Housing

Jan 17, 2024

Statement by Zac de Vries, CRHC Chair and Jeremy Caradonna, CRHC Vice-Chair

As the region grapples with the need for more affordable homes, the Capital Regional District (CRD) is moving forward with plans to double its below-market housing portfolio. This ambitious effort, currently seeking elector approval via an Alternative Approvals Process (AAP), would allow the CRD to enter into funding agreements with the provincial and federal governments to create more affordable rental housing options across the region.

This is part of the CRD’s strategy to increase the supply of non-market housing built and operated by the CRD’s wholly owned housing corporation, the Capital Region Housing Corporation (CRHC). The CRHC is the largest non-profit housing provider on Vancouver Island, providing homes for more than 4,000 residents through over 2,000 housing units across more than 52 buildings. The CRHC continues to pursue opportunities to help meet our community’s current and future housing needs, offering units that range from shelter-rate housing to below-market affordable housing units.

Elector approval is required before the CRD Board can adopt the bylaw to authorize borrowing up to $85 million as part of the Land Assembly, Housing and Land Banking Service. There are three ways elector approval can be obtained: municipal councils can provide consent on behalf of residents; CRD can conduct a regional Alternative Approval Process (AAP); or CRD can hold a region-wide referendum vote. The CRD Board has decided to use a regional AAP, sometimes referred to as a counter-petition process. An AAP allows individual residents the option to register their opposition to the bylaw directly with CRD, which is not possible when the CRD gets consent from municipal councils. An AAP is generally more accessible and convenient, and far less costly than conducting a regional referendum. The AAP response form can be found online and submitted either electronically or by mail within the response period.

The AAP allows the CRD Board to adopt the bylaw if less than 10% (33,191) of electors submit a signed Elector Response Form, indicating the need for a referendum. The deadline to receive elector responses is 12 noon on February 5, 2024. You can learn more about the AAP at

If the AAP is approved – which, if supported, requires no action on the part of voters – the CRD would be able to leverage potentially hundreds of millions of additional funds from provincial and federal government partners who are also highly motivated to advance housing affordability. Together, borrowed funds and grant funding would enable investments in affordable housing developments worth hundreds of millions of dollars. It is important to note that debt will not be incurred, and therefore requisition will not increase, until funding is approved for a specific project by the CRD Board or through an annual planning approval process.

The CRD is well positioned to transform capital and land into new affordable housing units, and it has a strong track record to prove it. Since 2018, programs and partnerships with the Government of Canada and Province of BC, such as the Regional Housing First Program (RHFP), the Regional Housing Trust Fund (RHTF), and the Community Housing Fund (CHF), have delivered over 700 units of affordable housing, with more than 275 units under construction, and over 500 units in the planning phase.

The increased capacity for borrowing that the CRD is seeking, when combined with funding from other orders of government, could deliver as many as 2,000 new units of affordable housing in the coming years, doubling the CRHC’s portfolio, and providing a regional approach to increased affordable housing options.

The CRHC is the largest non-profit housing provider in the region, and depending on how the numbers are counted, the second or third largest in the entire Province. About 1% of the region’s total population calls a CRHC building home, and more buildings are in the works. For instance, the Michigan Square and Caledonia projects, both located in Victoria, will add hundreds of new affordable homes for folks waiting, unfortunately, on long waitlists. The CRHC also operates buildings in seven municipalities and future developments will be distributed across the region.

But we must do more.

Greater Victoria has been ranked as the third most expensive urban area in the country. The housing crisis is real for residents of the region, which is why the CRD has placed housing affordability at the very top of its strategic priorities. To be sure, building and operating affordable housing is part of the CRD’s mandate. It is a positive thing that the region is adding new market housing, especially in urban areas that are well suited for density, but supply can only do so much to alleviate rental prices. The most immediate, reliable, and enduring solution to housing affordability is to build more below-market housing. As a region, we have a lot of catching up to do with places such as Paris and Vienna, where a much higher percentage of the housing stock is subsidized and run by non-profit or government-backed housing providers.

Affordable housing supply is also needed for the region’s workforce. As city councillors and CRD directors, we know that virtually every major employer in the region is struggling to locate and retain labour, and mainly due to the housing crisis. People want to live and work in the CRD, and employers are ready to hire, but the average person is being driven out due to exorbitant living costs.

The CRHC is a trusted, reliable, and effective non-profit housing provider that offers a viable pathway to affordability in the region. When combined with new provincial laws and the modernization of municipal housing policies that have reduced red tape, the CRHC is uniquely suited to deliver on the key challenge of our time – increasing the supply of affordable housing. The proposed borrowing bylaw is one of the tools available to the CRD to pursue new opportunities to create housing for folks living with income below the median. By working together, we can make affordable housing happen.