Developer asks Parksville to donate property for co-housing project

Councillor says local housing crunch should be addressed

A delegation that proposed a co-housing project on a property that would be donated by the City of Parksville prompted a call for exploration into the idea by Coun. Kim Burden during council’s regular meeting July 5.

Prior to the meeting, developer and builder Daniel Duggan suggested the city donate the vacant parcel of land on Jensen Avenue, between city hall and the Parksville Volunteer Fire Department hall, for an affordable housing project utilizing sustainable building practices and a combination of corporate and municipal investment.

“It’s not a whimsical luxury; it’s an imperative,” said Duggan, a “semi-retired” commercial developer now working with Affordable Housing Vancouver Island.

“This would help alleviate the crisis in affordable, entry-level homes in Parksville. Many families that would like to move into the area can’t afford to get into the market.”

Near the end of the council meeting that followed, after Duggan had left chambers, Burden attempted to introduce a motion requesting city staff draft a request for proposal to see what kind of affordable housing proposals the city would get from non-profit developers.

That drew an immediate response from Coun. Sue Powell, who asked chief administrative officer Deb Comis to confirm whether council had previously stated it was not interested in putting out an RFP for the Jensen Avenue property.

Comis acknowledged that was true, and added that an RFP of the kind suggested by Burden was problematic on multiple fronts.

“Unless council is actually prepared to move forward… preparing an RFP is a lot of work,” said Comis. “Right now, the planning department is swamped. If we’re going to do this we need specific direction.

“And it’s costly for developers to put that kind of proposal together. Unless council is planning to actually award a contract, it would be unfair to the developer.”

Burden suggested council “start to explore” how it might use the property to help ease the housing pinch for young families and single workers priced out of the local market.

“We’ve had discussions on that before,” said Mayor Marc Lefebvre, noting the absence of Coun. Leanne Salter and Coun. Teresa Patterson. “But I’d like to see you bring it back when we have a full council.”

Burden said he would be happy to do so.

Comis said such a discussion involving the disposition of city-owned land would fall under the Community Charter, which would guide council toward a closed-door (in camera) meeting.

“I’m sure you’ve whet some appetites tonight, Coun. Burden,” said Lefebvre.

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