A solution to Campbell River’s housing crisis is going to have to wait a little bit longer.
Council, at its Sept. 18 meeting, chose to hold off on deciding whether to help fund a regional affordable housing strategy until hearing from the province.
Earlier this month, the B.C. NDP government announced $291 million over two years for rental housing in its first financial plan and Campbell River council wanted to hear more about the province’s role in housing before committing to anything.
Coun. Charlie Cornfield said he would prefer the city wait to make any decisions of its own until after this week’s Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM) convention between local governments and the province, wraps ups.
“It does come out of our taxpayers’ pockets,” Cornfield said. “I’d like to see what the province’s role is.”
Though Cornfield’s motion to defer until after UBCM is over was passed, not all were in favour, with councillors Michele Babchuk, Colleen Evans, and Ron Kerr opposed.
“I agree that there will be a discussion around housing at UBCM but I think the fact we are buying into this plan actually gives us something to talk about,” Kerr said. “If we go looking for funding, it will be easier if we have a plan in place. Discussions with senior governments are easier with a plan, so I wouldn’t want to see this slowing down at all.”
The plan being contemplated is a regional plan that would encompass all of the communities and electoral areas within the Strathcona Regional District, including the City of Campbell River.
The regional district is requesting the city put up $20,000 towards the development of a regional housing affordability and availability plan as an initial attempt to leaverage funding from other governments, groups and organizations.
Regional District Board Chair John MacDonald said in a written request to the city that affordable housing is an issue common to both local governments and would be best addressed collaboratively.
“In recent years, housing issues in the Strathcona Regional District, including the City of Campbell River, have become a growing concern for residents and community leaders that necessitates a comprehensive approach to develop a regional housing affordability and availability plan that will identify opportunities to increase affordable housing, collaborative planning, shared data measurements and help to position the communities for federal and provincial funding,” MacDonald wrote.
The housing plan is a strategic priority of the Strathcona Community Health Network and is aimed at coming up with solutions to the region’s housing crisis. According to statistics compiled by the Health Network, in 2015, 46.1 per cent of renters in the Campbell River region spent more than 30 per cent of their income on housing. Furthermore, a local Housing First Committee told council recently that more and more groups of people are finding themselve homeless, including two-parent families where each is holding down more than one job.
The Health Network, which seeks to understand and further improve the determinants of health in our region, intends to do a number of things through the housing plan, such as: identify projected trends, develop shared data measurements, identify policy interventions, develop multi-sectoral partnerships and collaborative planning, position communities to leverage external funding and support, research evidence-based best practice in comparable communities and identify opportunities to increase the availability of appropriate, affordable housing across the region.
The Health Network is comprised of a table of partners of which there are three permanent members – the Strathcona Regional District, First Nations Health Council, and Island Health – as well as members from the Laichwiltach Family Life Society, North Island Employment, City of Campbell River, KDC Health, Success by 6 and Greenways Land Trust.