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Hot Topics November 2017 in Victoria, BC

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BC Ferries to Lower Rates for Minor Routes

During the provincial elections this past spring, coastal residents across British Columbia were enchanted by the NDP government’s promises for lower rates on BC Ferries. Citing increased cooperation between the government and BC Ferries executives, the NDP aimed to bring back the foregone free trips for seniors, reduce rates on minor routes by up to 15%, and freeze the price on major routes. During the previous provincial government’s tenure, rates had been increasing to keep up with costs, and benefits for seniors were routinely cut down to the current state: slightly discounted rates only from Mondays to Thursdays. While there have certainly been some vocal critics about the NDP’s plan, the Transportation Minister Claire Trevena has recently given some encouraging news: BC Ferries could see an increased ridership of 5% when these fare reductions are implemented in the spring of 2018. Ever the contentious issue, there are concerns that an increased ridership will also increase wait times and delays, as well as concerns that the government is not doing enough about the high costs of ferry rides for those in the lower mainland, Victoria and Nanaimo, but the government is promising a complete review of the system to ensure it is efficient and affordable for all.

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Trans Canada Trail is Completed Across BC

The Great Trail has been a dream across Canada since our 125th Anniversary Celebrations. The idea was to connect the entire country from coast to coast using the world’s longest recreational trail. One could conceivably hike, canoe, bike and cross-country ski their way from Victoria, BC to St. John’s, Newfoundland, along a continuous trail now stretching 24,000 km long across all ten provinces and three territories. At over 3000 km long, completing the trail in BC was no easy task, but on October 19th there were celebrations in Victoria marking the connection of the final piece of trail. Kilometre 1 of the Great Trail is found right here in Victoria. Starting from Clover Point and looping its way to the beautiful David Foster Walkway around the inner harbour of downtown Victoria, the first leg of the trail is familiar to many locals, and never fails to impress visitors to the city. Grammy Award-winner David Foster himself came back to his hometown to join in the celebrations. While the efforts of those working on the trail are now turning to improving and maintaining it, Canadians across the country are preparing to embark on their own national adventures, journeying from one province to the next.

Learn more about the trail here: https://thegreattrail.ca

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New Amendment to Fix Loophole in Rental Legislation

The rental market in Victoria has been a source of tension across the city and its associated municipalities for months. Victoria has always been a popular place for Canadians to move thanks to its mild climate, proximity to Vancouver, and vibrant food and beer culture. All of this attention has placed a bit of a strain on the rental market’s ability to keep up with demand, as rates of availability continued to drop throughout 2017. As demand has increased, so have the costs of renting. In the face of these issues, the BC government has recently taken steps to introduce an amendment to the Residential Tenancy Act that will address a loophole in rent increases that have been causing residents some grief. While there are limits on how much a landlord can increase the rent for a tenant each year (up to 3.7% annually, an all-time high), tenants on fixed-term leases have fallen through the cracks as the current Act allows landlords to re-draft leases to the same tenants each rental term and increase the rent without restrictions. The new amendments aim to close this loophole, limiting the rent increases between fixed-term tenancy agreements with the same tenant to a prescribed percentage. Landlords and renters across the Greater Victoria Area have been voicing some very strong opinions!

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New Condo Project Approved at Uptown

When living on an island, the general lack of space can put parking at a bit of a premium. Thanks to investment in alternative transportation infrastructure like increased transit services and world-class commuter bike trails, Victoria has managed the realities of limited parking with aplomb. But with recent population growth and increased need for housing, some local governments are concerned about the lack of parking available at new development properties. Saanich City Council recently approved the building of a 61-unit condominium building near Uptown Shopping Centre, despite traffic concerns from locals. Citing that the frequent buses in the area, the proximity to the Galloping Goose Regional Trail, and the number of necessary amenities within walking distance, will attract new residents that do not rely on their own vehicle, Council was optimistic that the building will be a success. Some residents expressed concerns about parking and traffic in general as the area zoned is known for high volume, but councilors argued that while the new building may not improve the situation, it certainly will not make it any worse. The new development will also follow a recent trend in Victoria real estate that is aiming to tackle the current housing issues: ten of the units will be dedicated rental units for a minimum of ten years before they can be sold.

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Boats Removed from Gorge

One of the many benefits of living in the Greater Victoria Area is the proximity to the ocean. Some residents take this one step further, as an alternative option for housing in the city is to live aboard a boat. From permanent float homes to beautiful sailboats, liveaboards (people who opt to use their boat as a permanent or semi-permanent residence) have added to the marine culture of Victoria for years. Their presence in certain areas, however, is not without some tension among more traditional land-dwellers. The Gorge neighbourhood, just north of downtown Victoria, is home to several liveaboards that have been violating the zoning of the area. The bylaws around the area restrict moorage to 48 consecutive hours in one spot, to a maximum of 72 hours every 30 days. The city is currently seeking an injunction to remove the boats that are contravening this bylaw within the Gorge, and are facing vocal opposition from the liveaboards in the area, some of whom have been living on their boats in the Gorge for years. The group of liveaboards is arguing that the Gorge itself is federally controlled and that the city does not have the jurisdiction to enforce bylaws there. Some locals find the boats a charming addition to the Gorge waterway, while others are concerned about the strain they place on water, sewage and waste control in the city.

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