Amid calls from residents to use two Oak Bay-owned houses for refugee housing, the district called for expressions of interest on the homes, once the current lease expires.
Oak Bay owns houses at 1531 Hampshire Ave. (two bedrooms, one bathroom) and 1538 Monterey Ave. (six bedrooms, two bathrooms). In September 2020, the district and the Victoria Immigrant and Refugee Centre Society (VIRCS) signed a three-year lease for both houses, but late last year agreed to early termination on May 7.
The VIRCS Welcome House program offered a place where refugees to Canada can start their new lives, receive comprehensive supports, and make meaningful community connections. The project was the first to provide interim affordable housing for refugees on Vancouver Island. VIRCS dubbed it a success and credits the initiative for supporting 10 refugees to transition to long-term housing all over the Island.
Residents hope to see the homes provide similar refuge for those fleeing war in Ukraine.
Council heard the plea from a handful of residents in person during its April 11 meeting. Just over a week later, the district announced it would take expressions of interest from non-profit organizations interested in using the two properties.
“We look forward to hearing from interested non-profit organizations and learning more about ways they might use these two properties to the benefit of the less fortunate. We hope to find a partnership (or partnerships) to ensure these buildings are providing real community value in the near-term while their long-term future is decided,” Mayor Kevin Murdoch said.
Once empty, the district plans to make basic repairs and maintenance to prepare the homes for new occupants.
The district invites expressions of interest in one or both properties from operators positioned to provide supportive housing within the context of existing zoning for a lease of up to 36 months, starting around September. Long-term use of the properties is to be determined in the district’s Village Area Plan currently under development.
Deadline for submissions is May 20. Non-profit operators can find the form at oakbay.ca/expression-interest.
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