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City of Campbell River adopts Housing Needs Report but not the recommendations

‘A report is only as good as the data upon which it is based’
The City of Campbell River has received its Housing Needs Report from staff, but has problems with the recommendations contained within it, as they are based on ‘out-of-date’ data. Mirror File Photo

Back in 2018, the provincial government passed Bill 18, which required all local governments in B.C. to develop Housing Needs Reports reflecting the housing needs within their communities.

The City of Campbell River applied to the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) for a grant to pay for its municipal study in July, 2019, and was approved. The deadline for the city to complete the study to receive its funding was set as Aug. 15, 2020, but was later extended to Oct. 15 due to COVID-19.

City council received its report back from staff at its most recent meeting and were scheduled to adopt the document so the city could fulfill its UBCM grant requirements before the Oct. 15 deadline, but some on council had concerns with the contents of the report.

The main concerns surrounded the quality of the data used in the report to make the conclusions – and therefore the recommendations – the report produced.

Coun. Claire Moglove wanted to know if they could receive the report but not adopt it and have it still submitted to UBCM to fulfill the city’s grant requirement but was informed by staff that the grant deadline was based on adoption.

“A report is only as good as the data upon which it is based,” Moglove said. “Through no fault of staff – this is the data that exists out there – the data is out of date, it is old, and it doesn’t provide council, in my view, enough to go on and adopt…especially the recommendations that come at the end.”

Moglove points out that much of the data being used to produce the report’s recommendations is from the 2016 Statistics Canada Census, a 2018 homeless count and a 2016 Residential Market Update for Campbell River conducted by Rollo & Associates, which she feels is all data that serves limited, if any, use to the city in trying to create housing policy.

Coun. Charlie Cornfield disagreed, however, pointing out that the report fulfills all of the city’s responsibilities in developing an overview of the community’s needs, and is based on the best data that is currently available.

“Do I disagree with some of it? Sure,” Cornfield says. “But I don’t have a proper census. Neither does the city. To do that would be expensive and consuming and by the time we finished it, it would be out of date again,” adding that there is “some very good information,” in the report, as well.

“In terms of the numbers of houses constructed every year, number of building permits issued, number of units, that’s all accurate information,” Cornfield says.

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Coun. Ron Kerr agreed with Moglove, adding that he feels more input was also needed from the development industry in the creation of the report.

“I think it needs some cleaning up and I think it needs some more information,” Kerr says.

Coun. Colleen Evans also had concerns, saying she, too, sees “major gaps” in the report.

Mayor Andy Adams says he would like to have seen council’s regular process followed, where a report is received at a Committee of the Whole meeting and thoroughly discussed before coming to a council meeting for adoption, because he, too, sees major problems with the report.

In the end, it was decided that the report itself could be adopted – after a few amendments were made, such as including North Island College’s stated intent to invest in student housing – without adopting the “recommendations” section at the end of the report.

Council can now determine what policies should be implemented to address the issues discussed within the report without being held to recommendations it hasn’t had an opportunity to thoroughly review.

Those recommendations include: at least 50 per cent of all new housing construction created between 2021 and 2025 should be purpose-built rental, 70 per cent of it should be multi-family housing units such as apartment units and townhouses, that the city should be developing regulations for the short-term vacation rental industry – such as Air BnB listings – as well as adopt regulations that allows more secondary suites and ancillary units.

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