Affordable housing a top priority for Parksville council

Inventory underway for all city-owned properties

Parksville residents paying about $1,197 or less a month on housing are considered to be in the affordable housing threshold.

During a Parksville council committee of the whole meeting on June 3 discussing affordable housing, City of Parksville director of community planning Blaine Russell, said the annual median income within the city in 2019 was just less than $60,000. He added that Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) criteria, which is the same as Parksville criteria, says rent or mortgage costs should not exceed 30 per cent of a household’s gross annual income.

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“A household that makes 80 per cent of that median income would be in the $48,000 range. Their core housing need for the year would be $14,300, that means that their minimum rent would be $1,197. If they’re paying that or less, their housing would be considered affordable,” Russell said.

Affordable housing, Russell said, is a broad term and can include entry-level home ownership, regulated rental housing, rental assistance, subsidized housing, non-profit housing, public housing and seniors or supportive housing.

The City of Parksville has policies in place to support affordable housing projects within the city.

“In our zoning bylaw we have density bonuses in some of our zones that if someone enters a housing agreement with the city, they’re able to put additional units on the property as well as they may benefit from the DCC (Development Cost Charges) waiver for those particular units,” Russell said. “Our zoning bylaw has a number of features, density bonuses and also things such as secondary suites, accessory carriage houses, so that’s on a single-family lot where someone could add a rental accommodation to their property for tenants.”

In addition, Russell said, council can consider fee waivers for non-profit societies providing affordable housing within the city.

Examples where affordable housing agreements have been enacted by the city over the years, include at Hustwick Place (33 units), Kingsley Manor (28 units) and ORCA Place (52 units).

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“In 2019, we have some new market rental units at 151 Despard Avenue East, so one of them is 20 units part of a larger apartment complex. That agreement was just approved recently by council,” Russell said. “We have another application for an additional 28 units, that’s in process.”

Russell outlined some direct actions council can take to further support affordable housing initiatives including, checking if city regulations are any kind of barrier to co-operative housing, packaging fees to encourage more development of affordable housing, looking at DCCs to see if there’s different rates for target areas in the city, consider options to support alternative housing and look at disposing surplus lands for innovative housing options.

“Indirect actions could be partnering with BC Housing to further develop affordable housing projects or Habitat for Humanity,” Russell said.

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Mayor Ed Mayne said city staff are currently doing an inventory of all city-owned properties and once that’s complete, council will have a better understanding of what’s available and how to move forward.

“Our highest priority now is affordable housing, so we’re going to be working on it fully,” Mayne said.

Mayne said there are many reasons why the cost of housing is on the rise, including increasing costs of construction to developers and taxes associated with purchasing property.

“All of those things put together add significantly to the cost of the house,” Mayne said. “We just control DCC costs, we can’t control the building code but we sure can tell the province maybe they should go back and look at building code requirements.”

Kim Burden, executive director of the Parksville & District Chamber of Commerce, spoke during the public comment period saying a recently conducted labour market needs assessment for Parksville showed one of the top priorities as affordable housing.

“We’ve heard of a number of businesses losing shifts, losing bookings, losing business in a sense because they can’t get enough employees because it costs too much to live here,” Burden said. “One of the things that hasn’t been talked about, another piece that came out of that assessment, is transportation. There is some lower cost housing within the region but we don’t have a transportation system that reaches it, so in order for people to get back into Parksville to get to work, they have to own a car.”

The next Parksville COW meeting is on Monday, June 17 from 4-5 p.m. at Knox United Church and will focus on downtown revitalization and economic development.

karly.blats@pqbnews.com

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