New Housing Toolkit Promotes Innovative Housing Practices for Local Governments

As Canada grapples with a nationwide housing crisis, the focus on affordability has reached a critical juncture. While federal and provincial governments often take the spotlight in addressing the challenge, it is crucial to recognize the pivotal role that local governments play in the creation of more affordable housing stock. Local governments possess an array of tools that can influence housing costs, including zoning regulations, development charges, density bonuses, and property taxes. 

In an effort to empower municipalities across Canada, Community Social Planning Council of Greater Victoria (CSPC) is launching the “Local Government Levers for Housing Affordability” toolkit with funding from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC). 

The toolkit provides a comprehensive overview of various tools and their municipal context, enabling local governments to make informed decisions. The toolkit highlights key tools and examples of policies and practices which are intended to make a difference in housing affordability, while addressing common challenges and proposing practical solutions. The toolkit also showcases illustrative scenarios that highlight successes in implementing these tools across diverse municipal contexts and addressing varying degrees of housing needs and affordability from coast to coast.  

Municipalities are at the forefront of the affordability challenges facing Canadian cities, and it is essential that they maximize all available avenues to improve housing availability and affordability. Unaffordability throughout our communities can drive individuals to seek more affordable living conditions elsewhere, resulting in labour shortages and stunted economic growth at a national level. Affordable housing is not just a social imperative but an economic necessity that supports business and individual prosperity, reinforcing local economies. We hope that by using this toolkit, local governments will be able to change their communities for the better, to become more affordable, prosperous, and inclusive.  

The launch of this toolkit marks a significant step towards a more optimistic future for housing availability and affordability in Canada. By recognizing the vital role of municipalities and providing them with the necessary tools and knowledge, we can collectively address our housing crisis.

We encourage Local Governments to look into the CMHC's Housing Accelerator Fund which aims to fund initiatives to increase housing supply.

Published June 27, 2023 

Author(s):

Khadoni Pitt Chambers, Research Coordinator

Aza Bryson-Bucci, Research Coordinator

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Aza (500 × 500 px)

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Local Government Levers for Housing Affordability

As we navigate in an era marked by a nation-wide housing crisis, all levels of government are under pressure to address the challenge, although local governments are on the front lines. Municipalities also hold a pivotal role in orchestrating the changes needed to address the affordability challenges facing Canadian cities. This toolkit outlines the many levers within municipal control that can significantly influence housing supply and affordability.

This toolkit is intended to help local governments across Canada, big and small, to understand and utilize all of the tools available to improve housing affordability by:

• providing an overview of tools and their municipal context;
• identifying success factors and key considerations for each of the tools; and
• sharing case studies and best practices that highlight successes in implementing the tools in a range of municipal contexts and for a diversity of housing types.

The optimal use of these municipal tools can change the trajectory of our current housing situation, creating a better future for housing availability and affordability.

Lessons From Helsinki: Homelessness & Housing First Approaches

This event focuses on lessons from Finland in utilizing the Housing First Model.

This model has been successfully implemented in other cities and countries globally. In Finland this model is credited with helping to virtually eliminate experiences of homelessness. While more hidden forms of homelessness remain, such as staying with friends informally, this model has been successful at providing housing with dignity to thousands of Finnish residents.

Joining us at this event is Saija Turunen, who will share their experience with this model’s application in Finland. Also, Housing First Expert, Dr. Deborah K. Padgett, will be sharing her expertise related to this model. Additionally, this event will feature a community response, where local experts, including Nicole Chaland, will speak to this model’s applicability to our region. See below for a full list of panelists at the event.

Panelists include:

  • Saija Turunen - Head of Research, Y-Foundation, Finland
  • Deborah K. Padgett - Professor; McSilver Faculty Fellow; Affiliated Faculty, Department of Anthropology and College of Global Public Health, NYU
  • Nicole Chaland - Co-Lead: The Housing Justice Project, University of Victoria

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The CSPC acknowledges the Songhees, Esquimalt, Tsartlip/W̱JOȽEȽP, Tseycum/WSIḴEM, Tsawout/SȾÁUTW, Pauquachin/BOḰEĆEN, T’Sou-ke, Scia’new and Pacheedaht Nations who have a historical and ongoing relationship to the land where our offices and work are based.

We also respect the wide diversity of nations and languages across the province. British Columbia is home to over 200 First Nations communities and approximately 50% of the First Peoples’ languages of Canada. For more information visit: https://maps.fpcc.ca/

Executive Director Update

The critical role of social planning in creating sustainable and vibrant communities cannot be overstated. As such, I am pleased to share important updates from the Community Social Planning Council (CSPC) regarding our efforts towards achieving more just and equitable communities in Greater Victoria. Our recent activities include addressing issues related to homelessness, gender equity, and housing affordability across the region. 

We recently conducted a bi-annual Point-in-Time Homeless Count and Survey in partnership with the Capital Regional District (CRD) and the Alliance to End Homelessness in the Capital Region. We'd like to say a special thank you to the participants who came forward to share their stories and for their patience with the surveyors. We are thrilled to have had over 200 volunteers working in the HQ and on route throughout the region. Thank you to all of those who sponsored and funded this years count and survey, your dedication to the community is admirable! The survey findings in July will inform plans for both short and long-term solutions to homelessness. 

On International Women's Day, we reflected on the ongoing gender pay gap in the CRD, which is not only important for gender equity (SDG 5), but also for promoting economic growth and reducing inequality (SDG 8). To raise awareness and encourage action, CSPC shared a fact sheet on the gender pay gap in the CRD that highlights key strategies and policies that can help achieve gender equity in the workplace. 

On March 6, 2023, the CSPC and City of Colwood hosted Councillor Learning Session: Municipal Levers for Housing Affordability with Brent Toderian as a keynote speaker to emphasize the importance of building complete neighborhoods that support affordability. The event is part of the Regional Housing Affordability Project which supported the creation of a community of practice to share local learning and best practices, compiling local policies and practices, and engaging with municipal, business, and community partners. In phase two, the City of Colwood plans to expand the project's toolkit, update housing needs reports, and continue offering regional workshops. The Regional Housing Affordability Project aims to create more just and equitable communities, contributing to larger efforts to create a better city for everyone across municipal boundaries. 

Although these are positive steps, there is still much to do. Looking ahead, we have several upcoming events that focus on important issues related to social planning and equity.  On April 18, we are hosting a webinar titled "Revitalizing Downtown Spaces in a Hybrid Work Environment." This event will bring together experts, community members, and decision-makers to discuss the future of downtown spaces in light of changing work patterns.  

On April 25, we are hosting a workshop titled "Family By Design: Designing Cities for Families". The workshop will focus on strategies for building better family environments throughout the region. 

Finally, on May 2, we are hosting a lunch and learn titled "Homelessness, Housing, and Human Rights: A look at Housing First Approach”. We will highlight data from cities such as Helsinki where they have utilized a housing first approach to effectively reduce homelessness and build thriving communities for their residents. 

It is important to align our efforts towards creating more just and equitable communities with the global goals for sustainable development. Proper social planning is crucial in achieving our community goals and ensuring a better future for everyone. As we work towards these goals locally, we must remember that they are interconnected with larger provincial, federal, and global efforts to create a better world for all. Let's continue to promote social inclusion, advocate for fair pay practices, and support affordable housing to create sustainable and vibrant communities that contribute to a larger global effort. Stay updated on our efforts and upcoming events by following the CSPC's social media accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Join us in spreading awareness about the importance of these issues by sharing this with your friends and family.

Published: March 10, 2023

Author(s):

Diana Gibson, Executive Director

Diana

Achieving Gender Equity and Closing the Gender Pay Gap in the CRD

Women in the Capital Regional District (CRD) continue to earn less than men. The gap is even larger for visible minority women and women with diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds. Women annually earn between 30 and 85 cents for each dollar a white man earns. The gender pay gap is a widely recognized indicator of gender inequities that exists across industries and professional levels. Even with recent progress, there is still much work to be done to eliminate gender-based pay inequality. 

At the Community Social Planning Council of Greater Victoria (CSPC), we believe that achieving gender equity is essential for building a fair and just society. As we celebrate International Women's Day in 2023, with a theme of "Digital: Innovation and technology for gender equality," we recognize the crucial role that technological tools can play in promoting gender equality and closing the gender pay gap in the CRD. 

The United Nations has identified digital innovation and technology as key drivers of gender equality and economic empowerment for women. With the increasing use of digital platforms and tools, organizations have the opportunity to increase transparency and accountability in pay practices and ensure that all employees receive fair compensation for their work. 

To achieve gender equality and eliminate the gender pay gap in the CRD, we must encourage employers to conduct pay audits and increase transparency in pay practices. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business provides exercises to conduct an internal audit, which can be adapted to other jurisdictions. Conducting pay audits can help identify and address pay disparities within organizations. 

Supporting flexible work requirements is another way to promote gender equality in the workforce. Women are often forced to choose between work, childcare, and other family commitments. A flexible schedule that eases in-office requirements can help working mothers balance work and family responsibilities. 

Publishing wage/salary information in job postings is also an effective way to eliminate the gender pay gap. Providing salaries up front keeps unintentional bias from creeping into the hiring process and provides transparency for applicants. Publishing a range also allows room to negotiate based on education and experience while ensuring candidates have equal starting places. 

Writing to your MLA and encouraging them to pass provincial legislation that outlines protections, processes, and remedies that require all BC employers to provide equal pay and to make the minimum wage a living wage can also help to close the gender pay gap. Universal childcare is also seen as a key way to eliminate the gender pay gap, as it can help women balance work and family commitments and increase their participation in the workforce. 

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) offer a roadmap for achieving gender equality and closing the gender pay gap by 2030. SDG 5 aims to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls, while SDG 8 calls for decent work and economic growth. By implementing policies and practices that align with these SDGs, we can create a society that values and promotes gender equity. 

In conclusion, on this International Women's Day, let us renew our commitment to achieving gender equity and closing the gender pay gap in the CRD. By leveraging digital innovation and technology, implementing policies that align with the SDGs, conducting pay audits, supporting flexible work requirements, publishing wage/salary information in job postings, and advocating for fair and transparent pay practices, we can work to close the gender pay gap. Join us in advocating for policies and practices that promote pay equity and gender equality in our community. 

Women’s Day 2023 – The Gender Wage Gap in the CRD is the most recent iteration in a series of data releases from the UWSVI and CSPC collaboration Happiness and Wellbeing Community Lab. The data provides additional information and statistics on the gender pay gap and highlights key strategies and policies that can help to achieve gender equity in the workplace. We invite you to share this resource with your colleagues, friends, and family to help raise awareness and encourage action on this important issue. Together, we can build a fair and just society where everyone has the opportunity to succeed.  

Published: March 8, 2023

Author(s):

Teena Santiago, Development Coordinator

Teena

Struggling to Make Ends Meet: What It Means for Families of the CRD

This year's Family Day Factsheet highlights inflation pressures, cost of living, and housing as top issues.

Family Day is a day that allows us to be together, celebrate one another and embrace all that is good about those who enrich our lives. But, did you know that 1 in 15 families living in the Greater Victoria Region are living in low-income?  

As part of the Happiness and Wellbeing Lab project, the United Way Southern Vancouver Island and Community Social Planning Council release an annual family day fact sheet. The fact sheet shows that even though we may all be in the same storm, we are not all in the same boat. As we look back on this year's Family Day, let's make sure that no family gets left behind.

This year’s factsheet drives home the fact that families are struggling with inflation and the high cost of living. This is causing a reliance on free food programs and increased challenges as pandemic-era funding ends and daily necessities become more expensive. In fact, between September and December 2022, demand for the food bank increased by 20%. Housing prices are squeezing families as well, with median house prices ranging from just over $850,000 in Sooke to over $1.7 million in Oak Bay. While house prices are deeply unaffordable, so is renting. Over 40% of renters in the region are in “core housing need”, a definition given to households that are spending over 30% of their income on housing.

We've seen key shifts in data in this year's fact sheet which are most likely attributable to pandemic supports that we're offered to families during COVID. These helped to lift families out of poverty but are being phased out as we enter a post-pandemic environment. With these programs coming to an end, we are seeing poverty rates jump for families, this is highlighted in the increased demand for food banks and rent bank services.

With this data available and accessible for all, we have to ask the question, what can be done to support families during this unprecedented time?

One way the government could support families is by implementing a living wage. While BC’s $15.65/hr minimum wage is the second highest in the country, it is still a far cry from the living wage of $24.29, which was recently calculated by the Happiness and Wellbeing Lab. The living wage saw a record-breaking 20% increase in 2022, which shows how much core necessities are costing families. The gap between income and expenses can be closed in one of two ways, either by reducing the cost of living or increasing wages.

The cost of living was lowered in the past through investments in child care. This helped to drop the living wage in 2019, showing that government action on the cost of living can help reduce poverty. While child care is still a substantial cost for families, more needs to be done on housing and food affordability to ensure that no family gets left behind.

No Family Left Behind is the most recent iteration in a series of fact sheets using data from the UWSVI and CSPC collaboration Happiness and Wellbeing Community Lab. The fact sheet can be downloaded here.

Published: February 21, 2023

Author(s):

Colton Whittaker, Communications Coordinator

Colton-sm

Family Day Factsheet: No Family Left Behind 2023

As part of the Happiness and Wellbeing Lab project, the United Way South Vancouver Island and Community Council release an annual family day fact sheet. The fact sheet brings awareness that even though we may all be in the same storm, we are not all in the same boat. As we celebrate this BC Family Day, let's make sure that No Family Gets Left Behind. 

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They Paved Paradise: Transforming Minimum Parking Requirements Event

Did you know it’s estimated that creating one required parking spot can add an additional 10 to 15 percent to overall development costs?

As our housing unaffordability and cost of living crisis continue to put communities under pressure, policy makers and advocates are looking at a new solution: transforming our minimum parking requirements (MPRs). This shift could not only get us closer to our poverty reduction goals, but also address climate change and help create a more livable region.

Joined by guest speakers with experience transforming parking minimums in cities across North America, we’ll discuss key questions such as:

How do you envision communities changing with a shift away from MPRs?

What were some of the challenges faced by city council, staff, and the public when transforming MPRs in your community?

What are the potential or experienced impacts of MPR removal?

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The CSPC acknowledges the Songhees, Esquimalt, Tsartlip/W̱JOȽEȽP, Tseycum/WSIḴEM, Tsawout/SȾÁUTW, Pauquachin/BOḰEĆEN, T’Sou-ke, Scia’new and Pacheedaht Nations who have a historical and ongoing relationship to the land where our offices and work are based.

We also respect the wide diversity of nations and languages across the province. British Columbia is home to over 200 First Nations communities and approximately 50% of the First Peoples’ languages of Canada. For more information visit: https://maps.fpcc.ca/

Want to give back this holiday season?

As the living wage soars, 1 in 11 families in Greater Victoria are considered low-income. Even more alarming is the fact that over 14% of local children are living in poverty, according to a recent study by the CSPC.

We believe that an equitable, sustainable, and affordable Greater Victoria is in reach, but is only achievable when we collectively work together to support underserved populations.

This holiday season, we are asking you to please consider supporting a local non-profit, family, or anyone who could use a helping hand.


Check out this list from Victoria Buzz which includes numerous charities and non-profits you could support this giving season.

The Mustard Seed 

The Mustard Seed Street Church has helped fight hunger and restore faith to people living in harsh conditions in greater Victoria since 1975.

The Mustard Seed accepts food, clothing and Christmas hamper donations.

  • Where: The Mustard Seed, 625 Queens Avenue
  • When: Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
    • Food bank hours are Monday to Friday 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Victoria Community Fridge 

The fridge operates on a “take what you need, leave what you can” basis, as an exciting way to strengthen the community.

Everyone is welcome to take whatever they need from the fridge, whenever.

The fridge is open 24/7 and directly accessible from the sidewalk.

Acceptable donations to the community fridge and pantry items include:

  • Fresh fruit and vegetables
  • Unopened or bulk dry goods (pasta, rice, legumes, baking supplies)
  • Sealed hygiene items (diapers, toothpaste, hand sanitizer, masks, gloves, tampons, pads, and soaps)
  • Sealed pet food, and snacks (granola bars, crackers, etc.)

Accepted products with labelled expiry dates:

  • Bread and pastries
  • Fresh eggs
  • Dairy products or alternatives
  • Soy products and meat alternatives

What the community fridge does not accept:

  • Open or used items
  • Raw meat or seafood
  • Opened or half-eaten food (unless individually packaged)
  • Alcohol
  • Mouldy or seriously damaged bread or produce
  • Frozen food
  • Leftovers or premade meals*
  • Where: Victoria Community Fridge, 2725 Rock Bay Avenue
  • When: Open 24/7

The Rainbow Kitchen

Founded in 2010, Rainbow Kitchen is a family-friendly community kitchen that specializes in providing delicious meals and connecting the community to resources.

Everyone is welcome, no questions asked.

If you or someone you know needs food, Rainbow Kitchen can help. With a dedicated team of staff and volunteers, Rainbow Kitchen serves 10,000 meals every month.

The Rainbow Kitchen accepts pasta, rice, tomatoes, beans, canned vegetables, toiletries, cooking oils/sprays, coffees and teas, flour and sugar on a regular basis.

For those looking to donate fresh food products, the Rainbow Kitchen encourages people to contact them before dropping off items.

  • Where: Victoria Rainbow Kitchen, 500 Admirals Road
  • When: Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 12 p.m.

Sandy Merriman House

Sandy Merriman provides emergency shelter for 25 women who are homeless. We welcome trans women, gender fluid and non-binary people.

Due to staff shortages and limited space, the staff at the Merriman House are only able to receive donations on Sundays from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. and Wednesdays from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.

After the New Year donations will go back to being accepted on a daily basis.

  • Where: Sandy Merriman House, 809 Burdett Avenue
  • When: Wednesdays, 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. and Sundays, 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Saanich Peninsula Lions Food Bank 

The Lions Food Bank accepts a variety of food donations and food hampers.

December donation hours include Monday to Saturday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Food hamper donations can be accepted Monday, Wednesday and Fridays, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.

  • Where: Saanich Peninsula Lions Food Bank, 9586 Fifth Street
  • When: Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Anawim House

The Anawim house is a drop-in and transition house for the homeless and those living on the margins in Victoria.

The Anawim House is able to accept donations of perishable as well as non-perishable food items. Dry food goods as well as maintenance supplies are also gratefully accepted.

If you have any questions about donations, please contact House Director Terry Edison Brown at (250) 382-0283 or e-mail info@anawimhouse.com.

  • Where: Anawim House, 973 Caledonia Avenue
  • When: Monday to Friday, 9:30 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. With the exception of Wednesdays. 

The Soup Kitchen

The Soup Kitchen is staffed by volunteers and funded by community donations, for 40 years the Soup Kitchen has fed those in need.

The kitchen’s brown bagged meals are given out to over 30,000 diners annually. For many, this is their only meal of the day.

The Soup Kitchen gladly accepts sealed and fresh food donations, warm clothes and personal care products. Those donating are encouraged to call 778-440-7687 if you have any questions.

  • Where: The Soup Kitchen, 740 View Street
  • When: Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 10 a.m.

Our Place Society

Our Place Society has grown from a unique inner-city community centre to nine locations serving Greater Victoria’s most vulnerable, including people struggling with homelessness, mental health challenges, substance use issues, the working poor, and the impoverished elderly.

From community meals that rely on public donations, to Christmas gifts and warm clothing these are 13 ways our place society accepts donations from the public.

  • Where: Our Place Society919 Pandora Avenue
  • When: Monday to Sunday, 6:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Society of Saint Vincent de Paul (food bank)

The Society of Saint Vincent de Paul seeks, in a spirit of justice and charity, helps those who are poor, in need, or living with disabilities.

Society of Saint Vincent de Paul accepts anything from food donations, clothes, household items, electronics including TV’s and game consoles, to furniture, antique merchandise, and hundred-year-old literature!

All donations are now being accepted at the societies, 1010 Craflower Road, Esquimalt and 2784 Claude Road, Langford locations.

  • Where:

    • Society of Saint Vincent de Paul, 1010 Craigflower Road
      • Monday to Saturday, 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
    • Society of Saint Vincent de Paul, 2784 Claude Road
      • Monday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Living Edge

After moving to Victoria from South Africa in 2011, Pastor Neil noticed a lot of people in downtown Victoria were in need of food.

In an effort to support the community, Neil began gathering food once a week from grocery stores to hand it out to people from the trunk of his car.

Years later, his efforts have now formed Living Edge, a Victoria-based charity that is dependent on funding from individuals, groups, businesses, and churches.

The Living Edge’s focus is providing fresh food – not just canned goods – to local residents.

Living Edge accepts donations of surplus food from businesses and paid donations from the public.

Donations to Living Edge go directly to pay the expenses of operating their programs.

  • Where: Living Edge, 510 Constance Avenue
  • When:  The following donation drop-off locations include:
    • Monday 2:30-3:45 p.m. UVic Family Circle – 2375 Lam Circle
    • Monday 5- 6 p.m. Central Baptist Church – 833 Pandora Ave., Victoria
    • Tuesday 4:30-6 p.m. Gateway Baptist Church – 898 Royal Oak Ave., Victoria
    • Thursday 11 a.m. – 12 p.m. Quadra Village Community Centre – 901 Kings Rd., Victoria
    • Thursday 5:30-6:30 p.m. Saanich Baptist Church – 7577 Wallace Dr., Victoria
    • Friday 12 p.m. – 1 p.m. Open Gate Church – 679 Goldstream Ave., Langford
    • Saturday 11 a.m. – 12 p.m. Harbourview Church – 511 Constance Ave., Esquimalt

BC SPCA Victoria Pet Food Bank Program

The Victoria BC SPCA has a pet food bank- it’s free, confidential, and judgment-free. We don’t ask for identifying information.

Folks can take what they need: pet food, treats, and an assortment of other gently used items like leashes, litter pans, dog bowls, etc.

If you are interested in supporting the Victoria BC SPCA Pet Food Bank program, the initiative accepts donations of unopened pet food and treats, gently used items, beds and carriers!

Drop-off is available at reception during reception hours Tuesday to Sunday, 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.

  • Where: Victoria BC SPCA, 3150 Napier Lane
  • When: Every Wednesday, 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.

Full credit goes to Victoria Buzz for this list, view the original article here.

Affordability Targets Needed as David Eby Releases Housing Plan

Community Council report spotlights the need for affordability targets as David Eby announces B.C. affordable housing plan

GREATER VICTORIA: The Community social planning Council is pleased to see action provincially on housing.

The announcement of the move towards setting housing targets is welcome but there has been no mention of how affordability will be part of those targets. A recent report from the Community Council on housing needs data: Filling the Gap identifies the serious need for housing for households with lower incomes.

"This legislation will move the needle on the housing crisis if the housing targets specify not just how much, but also who needs housing, what kind, and at what cost." says report author, Nicole Chaland, "If the targets do not specify this, aiming at them will be like shooting in the dark." 

The report shows that in Greater Victoria there is an existing deficit of nearly 3,500 homes that rent for $375 each month and 14,200 homes that rent for less than $875 monthly.

"We have seen that supply alone is not going to resolve the housing crisis," says Diana Gibson, Executive Director of the Community Council, "Housing costs were a key factor in the living wage jumping 20% this year - affordability needs to be a strong focus in any targets that are set by the government."

The report partners with the HART (Housing Assessment Resource Tools) project based at the University of British Columbia. Hart is developing standardized ways to measure and address housing need, with a focus on improving the balanced supply of housing.  

According to Craig Jones, HART Coordinator, "provincial-municipal targets will need to be linked to robust, equity-focused, data. " He adds, "Our tool measures housing need by income group with intersectionality that allows us to look at housing needs for priority populations such as single parents."

Victoria

(City of Victoria)

Eqsuimalt

(Township of Esquimalt)

Saanich

(District of Saanich)