Housing money reinstated by Victoria council

Despite city cash crunch, council sees affordable housing as key commitment

Coun. Lisa Helps says properties  like this one-storey row house for sale on Fernwood Road at Vining Street

Coun. Lisa Helps says properties like this one-storey row house for sale on Fernwood Road at Vining Street

In response to outcry from service providers, Victoria city council has reversed an earlier decision to cut funding for affordable housing.

“It was a wonderful decision,” said Kathy Stinson, executive director of the Victoria Cool Aid Society. “We’re quite pleased that all the commitment to housing and (reducing) homelessness remains.”

On Nov. 1, council voted to reduce its annual contribution from $500,000 to $400,000.

The news prompted a strong reaction from those in the industry.

“Studies across B.C. have shown that supportive housing is the most cost-effective way to alleviate homelessness,” wrote Stinson in an open letter to council as chair of the Downtown Service Providers committee. “How will reducing the budget that contributes to the building of such housing in Victoria save money?”

Victoria also gets a big bang for its buck, she argued.

For every dollar the city contributes to housing, higher levels of government and other groups pitch in $14, she said.

Council listened. Despite its ongoing efforts to cut the budget, it voted to reinstate the funds.

There was another option however.

Coun. Lisa Helps proposed creating a new bonus density program that could fund the housing trust.

It allows developers the possibility of obtaining extra density, pending council approval, in exchange for a financial contribution toward a specified city fund.

“It’s a creative way to not take money out of the city’s budget, but to ensure the long-term availability of funds to build affordable housing,” she said.

The city already has a bonus density program in the downtown core.

Helps proposed a similar program for areas outside the downtown core.

The city’s new Official Community Plan already calls for more density in the city’s neighbourhood villages, she said.

“If we want to capitalize on that density …  it should be used for affordable housing if that is such a priority for this council.”

Specifically, she proposed that 75 per cent of the money accrued from the bonus-density program be directed to the city’s housing trust fund.

It’s an idea that concerned Coun. Geoff Young.

“There is a temptation to create the density to get the bonus and I don’t agree with that,” he said. “Generally, the density should go where it is appropriate and where it fits. The issue of revenue shouldn’t be a major factor in our consideration.”

Also, he argued any financial contributions by developers should be given back to the neighbourhood where the development is built, such as for mid-block walkways or public art.

Council defeated Helps’ motion – but the idea isn’t dead.

It was sent to the planning and land-use committee for more review.

Council decides to keep more housing money local

A related decision Thursday marked a commitment by council to keep more housing funds in its own backyard.

Council voted to backtrack on a previous decision to shift a large portion of its housing contributions from Victoria’s trust fund to the Capital Regional District’s trust fund, as a way of encouraging developments elsewhere in the region.

Cool Aid’s Stinson is pleased the city’s own trust fund has been returned as council’s priority.

“It really makes a huge difference,” she said, explaining that agencies building subsidized housing in Victoria can access grants from two funding bodies, rather than one.

While the CRD will grant up to $15,000 per unit, the city will also chip in $10,000 per unit for a total of $25,000.

rholmen@vicnews.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A partnership is looking to identify skeletal remains that were discovered by recreational divers in the Gorge Waterway this February. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Divers find partial human skull in Gorge Waterway

B.C. Coroner Service determines remains likely historical, not ancestral

This rendering shows the proposed warehouse for lands under the authority of the Victoria Airport Authority near a Sidney residential neighbourhood. (York Realty/Submitted).
Sidney calls on Victoria Airport Authority to improve design of planned warehouse

Council stops short of a definitive statement for or against proposal

The Victoria Police Department is looking for help identifying a person of interest after an April 29 hit-and-run. (VicPD handout)
Victoria police looking for suspect in hit-and-run investigation

The suspect was driving a four-door grey Dodge Ram 1500 truck

A man was arrested after allegedly threatening people downtown on May 10 while brandishing this knife. (Photo courtesy of VicPD)
Man armed with a knife arrested for allegedly threatening people in downtown Victoria

Officers used de-escalation techniques during afternoon arrest

A bullet hole is seen in the windshield of an RCMP vehicle approximately 4 km from Vancouver International Airport after a one person was killed during a shooting outside the international departures terminal at the airport, in Richmond, B.C., Sunday, May 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Homicide team IDs man in fatal YVR shooting as police grapple with spate of gang violence

Man, 20, charged in separate fatal shooting Burnaby over the weekend

Keith MacIntyre - BC Libertarian
Penticton’s Keith MacIntyre new leader of the B.C. Libertarian Party

The Penticton businessman was voted in by members of the party on May 8

RCMP are searching for Philip Toner, who is a 'person of interest' in the investigation of a suspicious death in Kootenay National Park last week. Photo courtesy BC RCMP.
Man sought in suspicious Kootenay death found in Lake Country

Philip Toner is a person of interest in the death of Brenda Ware

Vernon North Okanagan RCMP reported to 287 mental health calls between Jan. 1, 2021, and May 1. (Black Press files)
‘It’s not the police’s responsibility to deal with mental health calls’: Vernon RCMP

RCMP remind public to take care of mental health and well-being, while better solutions are sought

Thompson Rivers University campus is in Kamloops, B.C. (KTW file photo)
Thompson Rivers the 1st B.C. university to supply free menstrual products

The university will offer the products this September

Fraser Health is using ‘targeted’ vaccination clinics in high-risk areas of the Lower Mainland. (Fraser Health photo)
B.C.’s COVID-19 decrease continues, 515 new cases Tuesday

426 seriously ill people in hospital, up from 415 Monday

A scene from the Schoolhouse Squat from October 2018, where Alliance Against Displacement members and supporters occupied the Rutherford Elementary School site, advocating for people experiencing homelessness. (News Bulletin file)
‘Schoolhouse Squat’ activists get conditional discharge in Nanaimo school occupation

Ivan Donald Drury, Tingchun (Listen) Chen sentenced in provincial court in Nanaimo

The site of Sunfest, Laketown Ranch, will be open for camping this summer. (Citizen file)
Sunfest country music bash won’t be shining on B.C. in 2021

Annual Vancouver Island Festival cancelled due to COVID-19, along with Laketown Shakedown

Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation elected chief councillor Moses Martin, who was also Chantel Moore’s grandfather, speaks to media in Port Alberni on Aug. 16, 2020, during a visit from NDP leader Jagmeet Singh following the police shooting of Chantel Moore. (Elena Rardon photo)
Mother of 2 shot by police in critical condition, says B.C. First Nation chief

Community ‘devastated’ by third member of 1,150-person Vancouver Island nation shot in less than a year

Most Read