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Councilor calls for action soon on affordable housing in the city

Timothy Schafer
By Timothy Schafer
June 19th, 2018

The city needs to act sooner rather than later on the issue and availability of affordable housing in Nelson, one city councilor urged.

Michael Dailly said the city should create an immediate action plan out of its Affordable Housing Report 2018, which was delivered to city council recently.

“I don’t want us to be a community that in two or three or five years that we don’t have enough accommodations — which we almost don’t already — for our service workers to be able to (work) in the tourist industry and the service industry,” he said.

“I think we need to come back and come up with some real concrete steps we can take, sooner than three to five years.”

Dailly said council needed to tap into all of the expertise in the community and figure out what the possibilities were.

“I would really like to get a sense of what our priorities are here and shorten the timelines to make something happen, to create more housing, to create more density if that is what we need,” he said.

Dailly called for a special meeting to deal with affordable housing issues. That sentiment was echoed by Mayor Deb Kozak who asked for a workshop to identify the top two or three policies that need work right away, and short-term action.

“We know we have an affordable housing shortage that is not easily solved, but the city has certainly done some proactive things to cope with that need,” she said.

“I know we have a steep hill to climb but we have made some progress.”

The report detailed some of that progress, providing a status update on the 20 strategies in the housing strategies update – October 2014, as well as an updated affordable housing policy that included revised incentives, guiding principles as well as criteria for the allocation of monies from the affordable housing reserve fund.

Housing affordability in Nelson, as across Canada, continues to be a serious, said city manager of development services Pam Mierau.

“Although the province has recently refocused their attention on providing funding for affordable housing projects, the city continues to receive requests for funding for affordable housing projects,” she said in her report to council.

Mierau noted that the city has undertaken some action over the last 10 years towards the support of affordable housing, including developing the affordable housing strategy itself.

As well, the city has established an affordable housing policy that created an affordable housing reserve fund and created an atmosphere to encourage developers to provide affordable housing within their developments.

A city housing committee has been struck and the city regularly negotiates contributions from developers to the affordable housing reserve fund (currently there is $74,629 in the fund).

A permissive tax exemptions for affordable housing providers has been created (approved by council on a four-year cycle) and the city has also revised bylaws to “encourage increased density and intensification in built-up areas and provide more affordable housing options.”

Those revisions include:

  • • increased density in residential areas;
  • • reduced minimum lot sizes;
  • • required mandatory suite-ready development in the R3 zone; and
  • • provided for a reduction in annual water and sanitary fees by 75 per cent for long-term rentals.

Within the last year the city has developed short-term rental regulations in order to preserve long-term rental housing stock, and revised regulations to encourage more laneway housing in Nelson.

The first phase of the vacant land study has also been completed with the goal of providing options for affordable housing sites or potential revenue for the affordable housing reserve fund.

 

 

 

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