Vancouver Island nonprofits call for action on housing

A group of 14 nonprofit housing providers have joined forces to create the Vancouver Island Housing Leadership Network, with the goal of seeing the construction of affordable housing.

We operate more than 6,000 units,” said Carolina Ibarra, CEO of Pacifica Housing.

The network is calling on municipalities and candidates in the October municipal elections to facilitate the construction of much-needed affordable housing on Vancouver Island.

The group’s “six calls to action” are:

  1. Establish a β€œresidential center” in each municipality to facilitate and expedite the approval of affordable and supportive housing proposals.
  2. To open access to municipal land for the development of new housing.
  3. To implement financial reliefs for nonprofit developersβ€”including exemptions from property taxes, development cost fees, and municipal improvement obligations.
  4. To speed up approval processes for affordable housing projects, following the Victorian model
  5. To promote cooperation between municipalities, housing providers and health authorities to support individuals in crises.
  6. Consider VIHLN as an expert resource on issues related to affordable and supportive housing and the people who need it.

β€œWe are in a very unusual development environment at the moment where construction costs are very high,” said Virginia Holden, executive director of the Housing Society of Greater Victoria.

Currently, nonprofits face set-up costs ranging from $500 to $600 per square foot.

These nonprofits benefit from grants and loans from all levels of government in terms of grants and loans, but they say there are still plenty of factors that make building more units extremely difficult.

“We hope it will be well received,” Ibarra said of VIHLN’s call to action.

“I think most candidates genuinely want to do good things for their communities.”

A local political scientist says the group’s collective voice could prove effective as municipal elections approach.

“I think it’s more effective because they pool their resources,” said Daniel Reeve, a political science teacher at Camuson College.

“You are showing that they are willing to work together and put pressure on the candidates on what has been one of the long-standing issues in Victoria.”

Namely, homelessness and housing affordability.

Last February, then-minister in charge of housing David Ibe said he was considering legislation that would repartition municipalities and allow stalled developments to move forward.

β€œWe see some areas where municipalities are simply refusing to agree to necessary housing,” Ibe said at the time.

Ibarra said VIHLN hopes that municipalities will approve housing on their own, and adopt the group’s six recommendations.

β€œThe ideal would be for the municipalities to come to the negotiating table and do what is right for their communities,” Ibarra said.

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