The Regional District of Nanaimo board has decided not to continue its plan to develop a regional housing strategy.
The RDN’s financial plan had budgeted a total of $98,000 to pay a consultant to design a regional housing strategy and for the social needs assessment report for the region.
But at its committee of the whole meeting on Dec. 7, Electoral Area E (Nanoose Bay) director Bob Rogers made a motion to remove the amount from the 2022 budget of the Regional Growth Strategy service
Rogers acknowledged housing is a challenging issue but pointed out the board has already received a housing needs assessment and sees no need to go further.
“I don’t think it’s appropriate this time that we include within the financial plan $98,000 for the housing strategy through professional fees,” said Rogers. “I think we’ve already addressed that through the housing needs assessment report that we’ve received. And I think we are better positioned and so on to focus on the development and delivery of a sustainable financial plan utilizing these funds in some other means and in some other responsibilities as a regional district.”
Parksville director Ed Mayne indicated there’s no place in Canada that has ever come up with a successful strategy to address the housing issue.
“We have copious reports already done, and they’ve been done, we’ve even heard, since 2008 and probably before that,” Mayne said. “They have the same answers that we’re going to get from the same consultants that are coming. It is just a big circle.”
Mayne said it’s not a good use of taxpayer money. He suggested the fund could be better applied in finding ways to reduce the time frames to process building permits.
“Our money should be spent for the benefit of our people and this isn’t it,” said Mayne. “We are not social providers for our residents. The province is and the federal government is. Let’s let them do their jobs and let’s do ours and provide the services we’re supposed to provide.”
Director for Area B (Gabriola, Mudge, and DeCourcy Islands) Vanessa Craig was not in favour of the m0tion.
“We’re in a crisis in this region, well, across the province realistically,” said Craig. “We’re focused on this region. This is an issue. We’ve already allocated the staff time and the funding. This isn’t new funding that we’re asking in 2022. We’ve already identified it why wouldn’t we close the loop and actually see if there is something we can do to address the situation.”
Nanaimo director Erin Hemmens agreed with Craig. She also wants to see the project completed.
“If we don’t close the loop, you risk having incomplete data, which whether we fund it or public funds it, we can have that conversation at the end of the day,” said Hemmens. “Clear data is how we’re going to make the best decisions.”
The board passed the motion.