Parksville council decided to move forward with support for new affordable housing development in the area.
At a special council meeting on Monday (July 27), the Nanaimo Affordable Housing Society answered questions and offered clarification to council after an initial presentation last week. They asked for support on an application to BC Housing for funding for an affordable housing development with 70-80 units, which they want to build at 371 Alberni Hwy.
Council passed the motion to support the NAHS, with Coun. Marilyn Wilson opposed.
Wilson started off the conversation, saying that she has confidence in NAHS after a tour they took her on of some of their Nanaimo builds.
However, she said she was concerned about the proposal aligning with Parksville’s need for low-income working families.
Coun. Doug O’Brien also brought up the lack of units allowing children. Presenter Andrea Blakeman, the chief operation officer of the NAHS, specified there would be six townhouse units allowing children.
“There’s a real need here because people have to, actually they’re commuting from Nanaimo type of thing, with cheaper accommodation because there’s no accommodation in Parksville,” said O’Brien.
“So if this is supposed to be like a Parksville project for a demonstrated need… the thing is, but we don’t have enough affordable housing for these working families.”
Mayor Ed Mayne brought forward a friendly amendment asking to include a part in their letter of support that the society gives more consideration to families when selecting tenants for the unit.
Coun. Al Grier followed, after saying that he supported the amendment, saying that the society would be coming back to council if they get the funding from BC Housing to work with council on more specifics of the project.
“I understand that to be what you’re trying to say here all afternoon, is that right now you’re after the permission to go to BC Housing and get the money and then you’re prepared to work and do part of what we would like you to do,” said Grier.
Blakeman subsequently confirmed.
Wilson followed, asking if they wanted 50 per cent of the units to be for families if NAHS would be able to accommodate that. Blakeman said that units with more bedrooms cost more to manage and that “50 per cent might be a little bit high.”
Wilson asked if they would come back with another percentage of family-friendly units and come back to work with council, which Blakeman agreed to.
“Two bedrooms or more will be extremely difficult financially to manage, holding the mortgage,” said Blakeman, who said putting a specific number on how many family units they could potentially allow wouldn’t be possible on the spot.
In terms of tenants, Blakeman specified that the units would be independent, not supportive housing. O’Brien asked for clarification on if any units would be used for “transitional housing for individuals that might need some extra support staff,” which Blakeman said would not happen.
“This is totally independent housing, that is in the RFP, that is not negotiable,” she said. “The only people that would be on staff would be either a maintenance staff or a tenant relations staff.”
Ultimately, the friendly amendment, as well as the motion, passed. The next Parksville council meeting is on Sept. 9.