Hand putting a coin in a piggybank

SRD looking into establishing a Housing Service

The Strathcona Regional District (SRD) is looking into the possibility of setting up a housing service to access funding for affordable housing projects. 

In the staff report prepared for the June 14 Board meeting, it states that 45% of the renters in the SRD are paying more for housing than they can afford. Many homeowners are facing similar affordability problems.

“Both the Comox Valley Regional District and the Cowichan Valley Regional District currently access requisition taxes for a housing service fund, to be accessed by local non-profit housing providers and other partners to support housing projects.”

Staff is not suggesting the SRD increase taxes, the proposal is to set up a service which would allow it to access grant money. 

Carpentry tools – Photo by samuelemunemu32 via Flickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 License)

The need for an additional 41 units in Area D (Oyster Bay to Buttle Lake) was cited as an example of what the SRD could do if this service were set up. The SRD could apply for a Housing Accelerator Fund grant that could potentially access between $820,000 and $1,599,000 of funding for the proposed development. 

The motion to proceed with investigating this proposal passed, with one opposing vote. 

Regional Director Gerald Whalley explained, “If I understood right at our strategic priorities, I think the intent was for the Regional District to buy land to build, say an apartment complex ranked unit below market value, and then we were talking about making a 5% profit. It just seems to me, why wouldn’t the municipalities want to do that themselves and pocket the 5% instead of letting the Regional District do it.” 

To which Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) David Leach replied, “If you don’t have a housing service, you can’t access the funds and there’s no point in applying.” 

Director Whalley: “It would seem to me that the municipalities are  competing against themselves when they support the board to do a project they may want to undertake themselves. There are only so many winners when it comes to the application for the grant.” 

CAO Leitch: “I think it depends what that is for. We talked about workforce housing at strategic planning. Workforce housing, let’s say for the hospital, would support the workforce that supports all of us in all the Regional Areas.* So I think, respectfully, it depends on what the housing you’re talking about is for. Once those individual subjects come to the table, that might be a fair argument.” 

Mayor Julie Colborne of Zeballos spoke in favour of the project, “I was curious if this report that’s coming back could have more details also about what a housing action plan would look like or how that would happen, because that sounds like something pretty relevant if we’re considering this accelerator fund.” 

CAO Leitch: “If there’s something you want to look at, this kicks it off. If not, it’s just dead in the water. Let’s stop talking about housing, because if you’re not going to start a  service, then we don’t have anything.” 

Director Doug Chapman, of Campbell River asked about possibilities for Cortes Island, which is Area B, as well as Quadra and other Discovery Islands, which are in Area C.

“As I understand it, Areas B and C wouldn’t have an opportunity to benefit from any housing accelerator fund if we don’t start the service. Am I correct in that?” he said.

CAO Leitch: “Any electoral area has no chance if we don’t have housing services. You can’t funnel money through nothing. We wouldn’t be successful unless we had a housing service.  That doesn’t mean we need to requisition buckets of money, but it shows initiative and that we’re working towards something to do with housing.”

Director Chapman:  “I think we should keep our options open and if that means creating a housing service, we should continue and play our part in being part of the solution. 

There was only one opposing voice when Chair Mark Baker called a vote, Director Whalley.

“I’ve got to keep the reputation going,” he quipped.

“Got to keep the reputation going,” replied Chair Baker, in a similar light handed manner, “As shocked as I am, okay. “

This prompted some chuckles, which can be heard in the audio. Humour has become a typical ingredient of this Board’s meetings, regardless of individual positions on issues

Footnote: CAO Leitch actually said “Regional Districts” but given the context I believe he meant “Regional Areas.”

Top image credit: Piggybank – Photo courtesy ‘Pictures of Money’ via Flickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 License)

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