While the Regional District of Nanaimo (RDN) does not administer housing agreements and is not interested in doing so, the BC Housing Authority and the Canada Mortgage and Housing Commission (CMHC) might be.
At a June 22 protocol meeting between Islands Trust and Regional District of Nanaimo (RDN) staff and elected representatives, Trustee Gisele Rudischer asked if the RDN had any interest at all in establishing a housing authority in order to manage low-income housing agreements. Paul Thorkelsson, RDN general manager of development services said doing so would require creating a new service. He said the board has not been interested in doing this.
Thorkelsson said it was also his understanding that the RDN is also not allowed to administer housing agreements on behalf of Islands Trust areas. Rudischer pointed out that Salt Spring Island housing agreements are being carried by the Capital Regional District (CRD). Thorkelsson said he didn’t know how that arrangement had been made.
Islands Trust Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Linda Adams agreed that the CRD is administering housing agreements on Salt Spring, but didn’t know through what mechanism. Regional Planning Manager Chris Jackson said the CRD’s housing authority is a “big service”, which is part of what makes it possible to administer Salt Spring housing.
Jackson said other Trust islands besides Salt Spring have taken on low-income housing agreements.
Adams acknowledged that: “Everyone is nervous about taking it on”, because it is a big task for which “you have to have the resources”. Jackson added that those resources aren’t usually available to rural areas.
RDN CAO Carol Mason said once a housing authority is established and the rent is coming in, an affordable housing program can be sustainable. She said it is “getting started when you need a tax base in order to leverage funds” that is the problem.
Thorkelsson said the BC Lions have some affordable housing projects that they own and operate, and for which BC Housing holds a housing agreement to ensure the housing is affordable.
Adams said she had recently seen a presentation by BC Housing (BCH) at which she thought they said they will hold housing agreements. She said she didn’t know about “all the contingencies”.
Trustee Sheila Malcolmson said the CRD has been clear they are only willing to carry housing agreements for multi-family dwellings, not individual units. She said housing agreements need to be administered by one body that is familiar with the issues around low-income housing.
The affordable housing agreements on Salt Spring “are a real mix”, Malcolmson noted. She said some are held by BCH and the CRD, while some are held solely by BCH.
BCH “doesn’t love” holding the agreements on their own, Malcolmson added. She said they would rather have someone closer to the community involved.
The Trust can administer housing agreements too, Malcolmson said, but it doesn’t really have the expertise. She said if other electoral areas show interest in setting up affordable housing “it would be good (for RDN staff) to have the conversation with us as well”.
Mason said the RDN doesn’t have the internal expertise, and haven’t had any other electoral areas indicate an interest in housing agreements.
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