The Society of Organized Services (SOS) will soon be able to provide certain tourism and hospitality workers a bit of relief.
At the Regional District of Nanaimo (RDN) board meeting on Tuesday, April 27, directors voted to name the SOS as the facilitator to provide affordable housing for area tourism and hospitality workers. The funding to do so will come from the municipal regional district tax (MRDT) accrued from online accommodation platforms (OAP). OAPs are also known as online marketplaces that facilitate transactions for short-term accommodations, like B&Bs.
An estimate of $25,400 will be available for 2021, but for future years the amount could fluctuate depending on the economic impacts caused by the ongoing pandemic.
SOS executive director, Susanna Newton, is excited for the opportunity.
“SOS has been providing emergency financial assistance and advocacy to low income residents for many years. So this is a good fit from that perspective” she said. “A lack of affordable housing, or low cost housing, is definitely one of the main causes of hardship that we see on a daily basis when we work with our clients.”
She said of those clients who work in hospitality and tourism, she’s aware some struggle with supporting their families, especially when a large portion of their income goes towards paying rent.
“The housing market is very competitive. There’s not enough rentals and they’re high rent. So when the majority of your income goes to rent, there’s very little left for food, medicine, utilities, activities for children, etc.”
SOS will facilitate the role as the service provider and co-ordinate the funds received by the PQBTA, who in turn, will receive them from the provincial government.
Newton said that it’s still too early to provide more details as to what the program will look like and how exactly the SOS could best stretch the dollars to benefit as many residents as possible.
Executive director for the PQBTA, Blain Sepos, said he looks forward to working with the SOS.
“When we were asked to provide input, we agreed with them (the RDN) that it makes good sense to work with a local organization like the SOS, one that is well embedded in the community already and knows what kind of challenges residents face here.”
Sepos believes the next step will be arranging a working group to decided on what the program is going to look like.
Another option the RDN considered, instead of using the revenue for affordable housing, was to use it as tourism marketing for the region as to help with economic recovery caused by the pandemic.
Even considering this option, Sepos said the PQBTA still supports having the funds directed to affordable housing for tourism and hospitality workers.
“We do have a chronic worker shortage in the tourism and hospitality industries. So if this is something that we can do to make a bit of a difference, it’s important to the community,” he said.