Regional district considers going into the housing business

Strathcona Regional District board looking at feasability of service to leverage funding

The Strathcona Regional District is considering an idea to establish a housing service.

A majority of the board passed a motion for the SRD to investigate the idea based on a model that was adopted by the Comox Valley Regional District.

The board was responding to a recent report by the Strathcona Community Health Network. SCHN coordinator Libby King appeared before the board at the July 18 meeting to outline some of the findings of a recent housing needs assessment report and how the regional district could respond.

RELATED STORY: Housing in Campbell River is less accessible, assessment report finds

The assessment was completed using a number of sources for data, which point to many challenges for people in the region when it comes to housing, as King said many are facing significant affordability gaps.

“They’re going to struggle to find somewhere they can afford to live,” she said.

King said the assessment really highlighted the importance of housing in the region.

“This is an issue that’s becoming more and more important in our community,” she said.

The study will provide a foundation for further work. Based on the Comox Valley model, the regional district could look at the establishment of a service that would spearhead housing projects and raise money that can help with matching grant applications. In the Comox Valley, the service has not been involved in building but establishing the service to help find funding for housing projects. There, they raised approximately $165,000 for projects.

“It’s a very good way of leveraging funds,” she said.

Director Ron Kerr, a representative from Campbell River’s city council who worked on the project, highlighted the importance of the service in tackling the demand for more affordable places to live.

“They’re tools that we can use when we go to the provincial and federal governments,” he said.

At the board meeting, there were questions about whether there would be enough time to receive some form of electoral consent for funding prior to election time. In the Comox Valley, the issue went to referendum. SRD staff clarified this could happen any time through either the alternative electoral process or a referendum.

Not everyone on the SRD board supported the idea to look at the feasibility of establishing the housing service. Area A Director Gerald Whalley said he understands the need for more housing but could not get behind the plan because he did not see it as within their mandate.

“In my philosophy, I see this as kind of a socialist-type agenda, which I don’t support,” he said.

Others who voted against the motion were Charlie Cornfield from the City of Campbell River, Area C Director Jim Abram and Area D Director Brenda Leigh. Abram said electoral areas such as his were trying to tackle the housing question at the local level, while Leigh questioned how many homes the funding would actually build, adding that they should consider measures such as more flexible zoning to allow more housing options.

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