City of Nanaimo hatches affordable housing plan

By Ian Holmes
April 25, 2017 - 9:55pm Updated: April 25, 2017 - 10:33pm

Uplands Walk in north Nanaimo is a subsidized housing model which serves the most needy. The City of Nanaimo hopes to help a broad range of people with its new affordable housing strategy.Pacifica Housing

NANAIMO — The foundation has been laid at Nanaimo City Hall to fight an increasingly evident affordable housing problem in the harbour city.

City Council has voted in favour of identifying its role and priorities in tackling housing affordability over the next 10 years.

“This is needed,” coun. Gord Fuller told Monday night's council meeting. “It's not just for the homeless, this is a strategy that will hopefully help with low-income individuals.”

An affordable housing strategy will be formalized over the next three months, according to a City staff report. The plan centres around ensuring Nanaimo remains home to people of all income levels by maintaining existing affordable housing stock and creating an environment for new opportunities.

The City's work will include a comprehensive study of the affordable housing landscape in Nanaimo, everything from emergency shelters and transitional housing, to market housing to be rented or owned.

Nanaimo Affordable Housing Society will be one of several stakeholders leaned on to help form the plan over the next few months. Executive Director Jim Spinelli told NanaimoNewsNOW it will be critical for senior governments to help fund the vision that's created.

“You can't operate housing at the amount of rent we can collect with people in deep core need without government participating,” Spinelli said.

He said an affordable housing strategy is essential in order to secure financial backing at the senior government level. He said the absence of such a plan will “block you from succeeding.”

Besides the need for senior government assistance, the City staff report noted private sector incentives as an avenue to increasing lower cost housing options in Nanaimo.

Mayor Bill McKay told Council the City of Langford has created a developer-friendly landscape which has spurred affordable housing construction.

“That's where we as government can really shine, is taking some of the barriers down and providing incentives that don't cost you anything,” McKay said.

McKay noted a count in 2010 identified about 300 people either homeless or at-risk of being homeless in Nanaimo. He said City social planner John Horn reported the number of homeless in Nanaimo remains unchanged, despite the creation of 126 local supportive rental units over the past decade.

The average sale price of a single-famly home in the Nanaimo area soared to a record-high $502,696 in March, according to the Vancouver Island Real Estate Board. The agency noted the March statistic is a 15 per cent climb over the average sale price in March of last year and is fueled by a lack of inventory.

The City of Nanaimo's deputy director of financial services Deborah Duncan told NanaimoNewsNOW $150,000 has been committed to forming the City's affordable housing strategy.

She noted $165,000 is contributed annually to an affordable housing reserve, which currently has a balance of more than $2 million.

Duncan said that fund is designed to partner with local groups in leveraging funds from BC Housing.

The creation of an affordable housing initiative was one of the strategic priorities identified by Nanaimo Council during a summer 2016 planning session.


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On Twitter: @reporterholmes

-with files from Dominic Abassi-

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