Parksville councillors talked affordable housing at their most recent committee of the whole meeting (Feb. 19), with members having differing opinions on the issue.
Major concerns brought up by councillors surrounded city-owned land, taxes, segregated housing and the responsibility of local government in providing housing.
Mayor Ed Mayne said he was surprised to hear some councillors hesitant about affordable housing, after the council had agreed made to make it a priority last year. Back in June 2019, Mayne pointed to affordable housing as the council’s “highest priority.”
“We need to be having affordable housing,” said Mayne. “I’m surprised that some are flopping and flipping about this.”
Coun. Adam Fras echoed Mayne, and said part of his promise as a councillor was to prioritize affordable housing. Coun. Al Greir said they need to have a spectrum of affordable housing for the demand that he sees existing in the area, as did Coun. Mark Chandler.
“We have to think of a variety of people here, affordable is a word we all throw around,” he said.
Coun. Marilyn Wilson said she thinks council needs to rethink affordable housing as a priority. She said Parksville has a lot of housing coming forward right now, and that she thinks it’s premature to make any more plans surrounding affordable housing development.
“I appreciate that everyone feels we need affordable housing,” said Wilson. “But I have some concerns that perhaps we don’t need affordable housing as we may see it right now, that we may have needed it.”
Coun. Doug O’Brien responded to concerns around the lack of a labour force in the area. Although he said he doesn’t believe in giving away city-owned land for affordable housing, he would be open to working with the planning department to work with businesses to create purpose-built housing – affordable housing on owners’ property for their employees. It “puts the onus on the business owners,” he said.
Rather than council donating land, O’Brien said they should be encouraging developers to incorporate affordable housing into their new builds.
“These incentives are already in place and they’re working, the developers are using it,” he said. “So this is a far better way of doing it, and plus not actually segregating a segment of our population that are in need of assistance at this time of their lives and putting them all in housing that contains only those that need assistance.”