Today’s Poll

Affordable housing policy, reserve fund updated

Timothy Schafer
By Timothy Schafer
September 21st, 2018

The affordable housing policy and reserve fund for the city have been revamped, just not the way many people would like to see it handled.

There is a sentiment in the construction industry in Nelson that the affordable housing reserve fund — that the city set up several years ago — should be used to pay for a reduction in the fees for servicing associated with development, or waive them entirely through the fund, said city director of development services, Pam Mierau.

She delivered the broader points of the City of Nelson Affordable Housing Report 2018, a re-issuing of the work that started around affordable housing 10 years ago.

“If (the developers) aren’t paying to upgrade the system it is coming out of taxpayer dollars,” Mierau said about the fund.

The intent of the affordable housing reserve fund — as established in 2012 — was for all city activities related to affordable housing to be undertaken through this fund.

Having all activities going through one fund provides for a transparent method of accounting for city support and communicating that information to the community.

Currently there is $74,629 in the affordable housing fund.

“The perception is we are not here to build housing, we are here to support housing being built,” said Coun. Robin Cherbo about the general sentiment.

That support comes in the form of an updated affordable housing policy, with the addition of five guiding principles to further clarify the use of the affordable housing reserve fund, Mierau explained.

“There is also a slight modification to the amount of funds that can be utilized, what funds can be used for, and the criteria for disbursement,” she said.

Within the policy housing need, partnerships, reducing capital costs of projects, flexibility and sustain ability and transparency were the hallmarks of the document, Mierau said.

Housing need pointed to using the reserve fund for projects that target six priority groups in the city, while the fund can be leveraged to form partnerships with various levels of government and non-market housing providers.

Flexibility meant a focus on new housing stock, regeneration of older non-market housing, purchase of older rental units to be managed by a non-market housing provider.

The report identified a number of possible initiatives to further assist in the provision of affordable housing within Nelson, all of which will be forwarded to the next strategic priority setting meeting of council for further discussion, which will likely take place when the new council is elected.

Coun. Michael Dailly was not pleased with the delay on dealing with the initiatives, having run for council four years ago with affordable housing as a top priority.

He said referring a decision on the initiatives to a future strategic planning session would put it in competition with bigger issues and it could get lost in the mix.

“Don’t wait for strategic planning … but include it in the new council’s reading package and for them to be familiar with (the issue),” he said.

Making it work
The city has undertaken some legislation over the last 10 years toward building the framework of affordable housing:

  • City of Nelson Affordable Housing Report 2018
  • This document provides a status update on the 20 strategies in the Housing Strategies Update – October 2014, a best practices review of affordable housing programs in other municipalities and an updated Affordable Housing Policy (which includes guiding principles to further clarify the use of the affordable housing reserve fund).
  • The policy also includes slight modifications to the amount of funds that can be utilized and what funds can be used for, and recommendations for further opportunities for city support of affordable housing.
  • Affordable Housing Strategy
  • The strategy included an initial strategy undertaken in 2010 and an update in 2014.
  • Affordable housing policy
  • The policy was implemented in 2012 and included:
  1. – establishment of an affordable housing reserve fund;
  2. – direction to encourage developers to contribute on a per door basis to the fund;
  3. – direction to encourage developers to provide affordable housing within their developments (for developments over 20 units).Established a housing committee.
  • Negotiated with developers to achieve voluntary contributions to the affordable housing reserve fund (the city has received between $250 per door to $1,200 per door as part of multi-unit rezone applications).
  • Provided permissive tax exemptions for affordable housing providers.
  • Supported development that achieved supportive housing classification from the province.
  • Revised regulatory bylaws to encourage increased density and intensification in built-up areas and provide more affordable housing options.
  • Developed short-term rental regulations in order to preserve long-term rental housing stock.
  • Revised regulations and are developing pre-approved designs to encourage more laneway housing.
  • Completed phase one of a vacant land study with the goal of providing a view of options for affordable housing sites.

— Source: City of Nelson

Initiatives regarding affordable housing

  1. Undertake an updated affordable housing strategy providing for current housing supply/demand data, as well as additional strategies.
  2. Consider contributing a dollar value to the affordable housing reserve fund on a yearly basis.
  3. Support increased housing capacity through the exploration of multiple dwelling unit conversions in all residential zones.
  4. Provide an annual financial statement of all transactions of the affordable housing reserve fund including staff time, tax exemptions.
  5. Review utility billing processes for affordable housing providers to allow flexibility in payment while still maintaining early payment discounts.
  6. Explore the use of revitalization tax exemptions.
  7. Explore the implementation of adaptable housing standards, freehold townhouses and small-scale attached housing within the city’s zoning bylaw.
  8. Undertake a phase two vacant land analysis to identify surplus vacant and/or underutilized land, as well as city rights-of-way.
  9. Consider the review of parking regulations for seniors’ housing and special needs housing.
  10. Explore having the housing committee focus advocacy and educational aspects of the strategy.
  11. Explore affordable housing solutions with other regional partners.

— Source: City of Nelson

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