Affordable housing needs risk assessment

The recent public meeting on the proposed Sherman Road affordable housing project brought several issues into sharp focus.

The recent public meeting on the proposed Sherman Road affordable housing project brought several issues into sharp focus. One is that the project is rooted in economic segregation, an archaic approach we know from extensive history will exacerbate poverty-related problems. So it is disappointing to see this type of proposal, when the large-scale Kingsview development is a golden opportunity to do things right.

Just as importantly, all the financial risks with the proposal rest with the municipality. The Community Land Trust Foundation of BC was established in 2015, and has no history of completed projects of this type. Nor does it have any history of successful long term management. It is great that VanCity is involved — but if things go sideways, VanCity will be able to walk away intact. As will the Foundation. The only party that can’t walk away is the municipality of North Cowichan.

I don’t mean to suggest the project is too risky for our community. That decision rests with council. But I do urge council to take serious note of the risks, with a vigorous public examination. I also urge council to have an independent review of the financial structure of this project, and of the Foundation and its associated organizations. There are many people in our community with expertise in this sort of thing — use us as a resource, we would be honoured to serve.

There is nothing inherently wrong with taking risks. But if we are going to take this one, let’s do so with open eyes and full foreknowledge.

 

Damir Wallener

Sahtlam