Land clearing for ther new Knox Centre on Church Street is ongoing. Construction of the 42-unit affordable housing complex is expected to begin in early 2018. (Sooke News Mirror)

Knox Centre eyes partnership with Sooke

Society proposes equity if district waives permit fees and gives 10-year tax exemption

The Knox Vision Society wants the District of Sooke to become an equity partner in its multi-million-dollar affordable housing project.

Construction of the $11.3-million Knox Centre on Church Road begins in early 2018 and will include 42 affordable housing units consisting of a mix of one bedroom, two bedroom and three bedroom units. The building will also provide space for a cafe and retail unit.

The society has asked district council to waive development cost charges and permit fees and for a 10-year moratorium on property taxes.

The money saved will go directly to reducing rents at the facility, which will cater to low and moderate income households, said Eleanor Shambrook, Knox Vision Society chair, in a letter to council.

With the waiving of fees, the society would be able to reduce rents by 16 per cent, or about $183 per unit. It would also lower the society’s payments on a $6-million mortgage.

District council has pushed affordable housing in the municipality for years, but the question is what are the financial implications.

“There are a number of questions that need to be answered before we proceed,” said Coun. Brenda Parkinson.

Under the Community Charter, municipalities can waive DCCs, but must make it up in other ways, either through taxation or charging more development cost charges to other developers. Four years ago, council waived the DCCs on the Hope Centre development.

The cost of waiving the Knox Centre DCCs would cost about $100,000, say district officials. The cost of the tax exemption and permit fees are still being calculated and will be part of a report for council in November.

The other problem with the request is that council recently reduced tax exemptions to a maximum five years, but council could change that policy for the project.

Council has approved several affordable housing projects and created legislation to make it easier for developments to get off the ground.

“It’s something we’ve struggled with for a longtime,” said Coun. Kevin Pearson, “and one that will present challenges in the future.”

The Knox Vision Society will make make similar equity contribution requests to the Capital Regional District and Sooke School District

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