Nanaimo's long-awaited affordable housing strategy nearly complete

By Spencer Sterritt
August 24, 2018 - 12:36pm Updated: August 24, 2018 - 1:24pm

The Affordable Housing Strategy presents a vision for future councils to follow in order to curb the ongoing housing crisis.Spencer Sterritt/NanaimoNewsNOW

NANAIMO — The long-in-the-works Nanaimo Affordable Housing Strategy is nearly finished after a final open house for community engagement and discussion on the plan.

Roughly 40 people at the Bowen Park auditorium Wednesday night gave their final input and comments on the plan, which pinpoints future options for the City of Nanaimo in tackling the ongoing housing crisis forcing many out of their homes.

City social planner Karin Kronstal said it's been an interesting process drafting the strategy and taking an in-depth look at such a complex issue.

“It's been interesting for me to learn throughout this process what municipalities can and can't do legislatively. You hear some great ideas but they're from countries with totally different legislation, or from a province with different financing. So it's been good for us to understand both our power and our limits.”

The strategy covers a wide range of options for the City to consider, from introducing zoning for micro-homes to requiring market housing to include a certain percentage of sub-market units.

Kronstal said it's an exciting time to work on the strategy since there's numerous new funding programs for housing and legislation anticipated from provincial and federal governments.

Nearly all of those who attended the open house were announced candidates for the upcoming municipal election.

Jim Spinelli, executive director of the Nanaimo Affordable Housing Society, said while he wished more people attended, he was happy to see so many political hopefuls since affordable housing is an issue numerous future councils will have to tackle.

“This is going to be an issue for the next 20 years...because we relatively ignored affordable housing for 20 years under the past government. We're way behind,” he said.

“I think that's one of the reasons we have the crisis we do and the tent cities we have. If you have a fixed-income, there's no place for you to rent.”

Spinelli said in previous years he and the Society would take calls from people trying to get on year-long waiting lists for affordable housing. But that's now changed.

“Now all the calls I get are people saying 'I need a place by the end of the month, can you help me?' And I can't because we don't have vacancies. People don't move once they get into affordable housing.”

Much like Kronstal, Spinelli said he's happy to see more leadership at senior levels of government to address the issue.

During this week's federal cabinet retreat, minister of Families, Children and Social Development Jean-Yves Duclos told NanaimoNewsNOW the recently unveiled federal poverty reduction strategy will focus on making it easier for organizations and governments to work together to build housing.

“It's going to be very significant. It's going to reduce poverty and homelessness by at least 50 per cent in the next few years, it's going to double federal investment in the fight against homelessness.”

The plan, released on Aug. 21, doesn't include any new spending or policy proposals. Instead, it re-iterates programs already announced or implemented by the federal Liberals since they took office in 2015.

Nanaimo's Affordable Housing Strategy was first announced as a strategic priority of City Council in 2016, with work beginning in early 2017.

A draft will be posted online on Monday, Aug. 27 before going in front of a committee and then City Council by the end of September.


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