Mayor pushes other municipalities to set up their own housing trust

Victoria's mayor is hoping other municipalities will consider creating their own housing trust fund to address the issue of homelessness

Victoria’s mayor is hoping other municipalities will consider creating their own housing trust fund to address the issue of homelessness in the Capital Regional District.

Victoria City Council sent a letter to the municipalities of Esquimalt, Oak Bay, North and Central Saanich, View Royal, Metchosin and Highlands recently encouraging them to establish a housing trust fund.

Victoria is one of six municipalities on the Island to have its own fund specifically for affordable housing initiatives

“It has been very effective,” said Mayor Lisa Helps. “It gets used up and replenished, so the money is not just sitting there.”

City council recently increased the amount it contributes to $1 million from $250,000.

According to city documents, they have helped build more than 700 units for roughly 18 local non-profit organizations with the fund.

Currently, almost all municipalities pay into the district’s Regional Housing Trust Fund, so not all councils are jumping at the idea of establishing another homelessness fund.

The Township of Esquimalt contributes $37,000 annually to the $1.3-million fund.

“We are affordable within an unaffordable region,” said Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins, noting the results of a recent report. “We are affordable and at the end of the day, we are contributing to the CRD fund and that is all we need to do at this point.”

Oak Bay Mayor Nils Jensen said the letter hasn’t come to council yet and will likely be brought up at the next meeting. But he said he prefers to keep the current system with the CRD.

“I think there is strength in numbers. Instead of creating our own little housing trust funds that are administered for different reasons, I think we get more bang for our buck when we work together on affordable housing.”

Oak Bay contributes just over $60,000 annually to the fund.

But Helps said councils should look at homelessness as a regional issue.

“There’s a certain feeling that the capital regional trust fund might be the best body for regional housing and I agree with that, but we also need other people in the region to contribute to it,” she said. “It’s an incredibly effective tool for actually getting housing built.”