Council voted recently to use $2.5 million from its Housing Reserve Fund, which includes money raised through its tax on services like Airbnb, to help build a $19-million, 40-unit apartment building downtown.
One-third of the units will be rent controlled, with priority given to workers in the hospitality industry.
Paul Nursey, CEO of Destination Greater Victoria, said the initiative was the first of its kind, flowing from an agreement between the hotel industry, the city and his organization.
“What we’ve demonstrated here is a model that can be replicated in a couple of years time, and it’s a first for a big city,” he said.
“Resorts like Tofino and Whistler, some of their employers have workforce housing, but this is a publicly-resourced program with a housing provider, so it’s a unique model and we’re proud of it.”
The project is being spearheaded by the Greater Victoria Housing Society, and has already been scoped and zoned, he added.
Bruce Williams, CEO of the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce, hailed the move as an innovative solution to help tackle the city’s labour shortage.
“Exceptional times call for exceptional measures, and there is a housing crisis,” he told Global News.
“Tourism, hospitality, retail are very often people that are earning entry-level wages. And as everything escalates in cost, including rent and food and fuel and everything, exceptional measures like this cooperation works well.”
Nursey said the Greater Victoria Housing Society was still finalizing its main loan with the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, and that it would likely still be several years before the project was complete.