Parksville will explore creating a city-sponsored program to provide down payment assistance to first-time homebuyers.
A proposal, brought forward by Mayor Ed Mayne, is for a pilot project using developer community amenity contributions to create an affordable housing reserve fund for residents who qualify. For each unit offered by the program, a developer could increase the project’s maximum density by an equal number. The city would permit developers to build several more moderately priced units, not exceeding 900 sq. ft. and under $490,000.
“It would only be available to those individuals who have lived in Parksville for a minimum of two years,” Mayne said during council’s May 16 regular meeting. “It is available in what is now being considered moderately priced housing, for all intents and purposes, with no cost to the taxpayer of Parksville.”
Mayne’s proposal calls for a pilot program of three to five homes before an evaluation.
Coun. Doug O’Brien said he could not support the motion because he does not feel it is the city’s responsibility and the issue is better left to higher levels of government.
“The City of Parksville is not a bank,” said O’Brien. “To suggest the City of Parksville would provide $17,500 towards a down payment has so many rules and mechanics to actually make it happen, it would be just a nightmare to try and administer this program.”
He added the program would require a substantial staff increase and criticized the concept of using the amenity contributions for down payment assistance instead of services, such as the fire department.
“I’m blown away that this is even being considered at our level,” O’Brien said.
Mayne said community amenity contributions do not go directly to the fire department, but to the city’s general funds. He added the program would not require additional staff because the city could form an independent committee to review applications.
Mayne said he got the idea from a similar program already underway in Langford.
Coun. Marilyn Wilson said she could not support the motion because council’s term is ending soon and because she does not want to give more work to the already busy city staff. The city’s chief administrative officer, Keeva Kehler, said she does not know how much staff time will be required, but said she will reach out to the City of Langford for information.
Council passed the motion 4–3, with O’Brien, Wilson and Coun. Teresa Patterson opposed. Staff will review the proposal and report back on what will be required for implementation.