Many Campbell Riverites are struggling to make ends meet and are finding themseves in a “difficult situation,” according to a non-profit society working to find a solution to the region’s housing shortage.
Jan Hesseling, vice president of the Affordable Housing Vancouver Island Society, made a presentation to city council on Monday (Oct. 23) to urge the city to grab an opportunity to build more affordable housing in Campbell River.
“I think it’s a great place to live, it’s a beautiful place to live but there are a lot of people here who live on minimal incomes, who are in a very difficult situation working to make ends meet,” Hesseling told council. “Supply is low, which means the cost of rental housing is very high and that pushes people into a tight corner and some people are two or three pay cheques away from being homeless and that’s really stressful.”
Hesseling said his society is looking at a model used in his native country, the Netherlands, where non-profit organizations own roughly 2.5 million homes across the country and rent them out at “reasonable” rates.
This is made possible in part because local governments that own land donate the property and waive the taxes and other building development cost charges.
Hesseling recognized that the City of Campbell River has been doing that for Habitat for Humanity builds but said the city needs to think bigger.
“Our non-profit organization would love to work together because alone we cannot solve this problem, the city cannot solve all of these challenges, nor can BC Housing change it because the funds aren’t there,” Hesseling said. “I think if we work together, we can make it work. It’s a numbers game. If you and I built a house it would probably cost about $200,000 for the construction costs, because you need a foundation and you need a roof. The only way to make it affordable is to create more density, so you have to have more floors and then what happens is the moment you create more floors, your construction costs go down and they go down by 50 per cent. That changes the whole game.”
Hesseling’s proposal is to have the city work with credit unions, private investors, BC Housing and other local stakeholders like North Island College in order to develop quality, higher-density affordable rental housing owned by not-for-profit organizations to minimize housing costs.
Council for the most part seemed to agree with Hesseling’s approach.
“It’s a multi-pronged approach, it’s something no one organization can take on alone,” said Coun. Colleen Evans. “It has to be collaborative.”
Mayor Andy Adams agreed but at the same time acknowledged that the city has taken steps to address the situation.
“The city has partnered with Habitat for Humanity where we have provided land or helped with services and that’s on the smaller scale,” Adams said. “What you’re describing is the model that we did with Rose Harbour where we provided the land and the servicing and then that agency took it forward.
“We also did a bylaw amendment and put in some density bonusing for affordable housing,” Adams added. “So these are just a few of the things we’ve been working on lately.”
Adams also noted that local developers have been endeavouring to provide “increased inventory in affordable housing to Campbell River” whether it be through building secondary suites or density bonusing but added he does believe there is value in working with social organizations.
“I think there is a place for the non-profits that we are working with, whether it be the Women’s Resource Centre, Makola Housing, or John Howard, that we can all work cooperatively together and everybody succeeds,” Adams said.