Former Victoria motel could become long-term rental housing

The property at 3025 Douglas St. is zoned for transient use as a motel, but most of its residents are there for long-term stays | Photo: Darren Stone, Times Colonist

The former Traveller’s Inn on Douglas Street in Victoria could soon become the site of long-term rental housing.

A proposal to formalize the use of the property as affordable market housing will go to public hearing.

The property is zoned for transient use as a motel, but most of the residents living in the 48 units at 3025 Douglas St., near Finlayson Street, are renting on a longer-term basis.

F.C. Douglas Properties is seeking to rezone the property for residential use. A covenant would ensure that the units remain rental in perpetuity.

If Victoria council approves a rezoning following a public hearing, residents would be able to live in the units as tenants.

Coun. Geoff Young, council liaison to the Burnside Gorge community, said the neighbourhood isn’t opposed to the application, primarily because the proposed use is essentially what is occurring now.

“This use is essentially in place now. I don’t think it will represent significant impacts on the neighbourhood, which as we all know has indicated their concern about impacts of some of the other projects that are being proposed in the area,” he said.

The Burnside Gorge Community Association has called for a moratorium on development of shelters and supportive housing within its boundaries until problems such as mounting levels of crime, drug dealing, open drug use, and entrenchment of transient encampments in doorways and boulevards are addressed.

Young called it “interesting” that this is the second application the city has entertained recently to convert commercial transient accommodation to residential.

The changes mean less revenue to the city, he said, as residential tax rates are substantially less than commercial property tax rates.

Young said he hopes the B.C. Assessment Authority along with the province will bring about changes so that short-term vacation rentals are assessed at the commercial tax rate, thus permitting the city to recover taxes it is losing.

“I think we really have to be cognizant that the underlying driving economics of this is that big differential we have between residential and commercial property tax rates,” Young said.

The Douglas Street site was originally part of the failed Traveller’s Inn hotel chain. The property was subsequently purchased by Mike Kelly, who failed to win support in 2011 in his efforts to convert the property to rental apartments.

At one point, he considered tearing the entire building down. Another plan was to use it to house students. Another time, a frustrated Kelly said he would put a chain link fence around the property and leave it there for 10 to 20 years. Eventually, a renovation was completed.

The current owner wants the building to comply with the bylaw.

Units are between 355 and 538 square feet and rent is about $600 to $700 per month, according to a Burnside Gorge Community Association document.

Times Colonist