Nanaimo's affordable housing strategy faces complex roadblocks

By Ian Holmes
September 11, 2017 - 5:32pm

John Horn and Joe Roberts after a meeting at City Hall Monday.Ian Holmes/NanaimoNewsNOW

NANAIMO — The City of Nanaimo's social planner concedes homelessness in the harbour city is up against a pair of emerging challenges.

John Horn said preliminary work in forming an affordable housing strategy revealed addictions and mental health problems have heightened for many vulnerable people in Nanaimo, citing the overdose crisis as a factor.

“It means that people are deeper into addictions than they would have been 10 years ago when we started this project and the amount of mental illnesses that we're seeing are more entrenched and more intense than what we've seen.”

Horn said the city hopes to have an affordable housing strategy complete in the fall of 2018 for the next council to then implement.

“The consensus so far is that we have an appropriate range of services but they're all going to have to take on more,” Horn said. “The problems are more acute.”

The City created 126 low-barrier housing units in partnership with the provincial government in a long-term plan formed in 2007. Horn told NanaimoNewsNOW in April it's believed about 300 people in Nanaimo are either homeless or at-risk of being homeless.

The City estimated a quarter of all Nanaimo renters spend more than half of their income on housing costs.

Horn said rising house costs are a troubling factor at play, sending people from more stable to insecure rental housing.

“That's putting a lot of pressure on the stock that we would normally access for the entrenched homeless population.”

Horn made the comments after a meeting with Joe Roberts, who's on a Canada-wide tour advocating for youth homelessness. Roberts said investing in homelessness would save many social and health related costs.

“Ultimately these reduce costs to taxpayers, not just at the municipal, but the provincial and national level.”

Roberts commended the City of Nanaimo for gathering information to help fight homelessness locally.

The City's first comprehensive examination of affordable housing in Nanaimo will look at the entire housing continuum, from emergency shelters, non-market rental housing to market rental and ownership.


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