Federal housing money comes with strings attached

Funds to renovate City of Victoria-owned motels require electorate approval

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. has committed $1.8 million to the CIty of Victoria’s affordable housing projects but it’s not a simple grant.

The funds will be given as a forgivable loan, which requires the city to jump through some hoops to receive it.

“The CMHC is requiring us to take a grant in a certain manner … (that) triggers technical requirements for borrowing,” said Rob Woodland, Victoria’s director of legislative and regulatory services. “We tried to bring (this) to their attention, but because of their organizational priorities they have to give it to us in this particular fashion.”

Although there is no expectation that the loan be repaid, it still requires approval from the electorate.

Through the Residential Rehabilitation Assistance Program, the city has received $864,000 and $936,000 to renovate and convert two motels into affordable housing, located at 710 Queens Ave. and 120 Gorge Rd., respectively.

The loan, amortized over 15 years, must be secured by mortgages registered against the two properties.

“To be clear, this loan is forgivable as long as the property continues to be operated as affordable housing for 15 years,” said Coun. Lisa Helps.

Last week, city council gave first nod to proceeding with an alternative approval process, which costs about $5,000 to mount. After receiving notice through the local media, residents will have 30 days to voice their opposition by signing an elector response form. If more than 10 per cent of the electors sign the form, the municipality must drop the proposed borrowing bylaw or proceed with a full referendum.