Building affordable housing in an increasingly tight market has become a priority for the Municipality of North Cowichan, and a plan for two new projects is a sign of its commitment.
The municipality has decided to enter into a Memorandum of Understanding with the Community Land Trust Foundation of BC to explore affordable housing options on two local properties that North Cowichan owns.
The first is at 9800 Willow St. in Chemainus where the municipality and the CLTF envision the construction of a mixed-use building with commercial units on the first floor and affordable housing in its upper floors.
The other is located at 3191 Sherman Rd., where 1.2 acres of the property is planned for affordable housing, and 0.5 acres is being considered for supportive housing.
The supportive housing would be in partnership with the Cowichan Women Against Violence Society.
The initiative comes after the Cowichan Valley Regional District conducted an assessment of affordable housing in 2014 and found that the region lacks affordable housing options for youth, students, low-income families, seniors, and vulnerable groups.
Sandi Doerksen, assistant manager of Duncan’s Warmland House homeless shelter, said the plan can’t be implemented soon enough.
She said Warmland House’s 30 emergency beds are full every night, approximately 10 people have to be turned away each evening and she expects there are another 30 or more homeless people who don’t even try to get a bed anymore there due to its over capacity.
“It’s really bad and only getting worse,” she said.
“There’s just no affordable rent available anymore. Many of these people get $375 a month in social assistance to pay for housing, but there’s no place for them that’s under $800 a month these days.”
The two projects aren’t expected to come at any cost to the municipality.
If the CLTF, a non-profit society serving as the real estate development arm of the Co-operative Housing Federation of BC, decides to move forward with the two projects after completing feasibility studies, North Cowichan would lease the properties to the federation and the CLTF would be responsible for all aspects of construction.
“Council is pleased to enter into this partnership with the CLTF,” said North Cowichan Mayor Jon Lefebure.
“We know that affordable housing is a pressing issue in our communities, and we feel that a great way to make progress is through creativity and collaboration.”
Tiffany Duzita, director of development with the CLTF, commended North Cowichan for its “proactive and innovative approach to create affordable housing opportunities in the community.”
“This just shows that affordability is a concern throughout the province, and we are pleased to be part of a solution in North Cowichan,” she said.