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REPORTING · 23rd November 2013
Walter McFarlane
Councillor Edwin Empinado made two motions on Monday, November 18th. The first was to have staff report back to Council on the role of Secondary Suites in meeting housing needs in Kitimat.

He explained the Housing Committee is facing challenges in responding to identified groups which were identified in the Housing Needs Assessment study of 2012. They have been told by BC Housing that it is expensive to build for each of the groups and there is no funding coming from the Provincial Government.

However, Empinado told Council Staff has reported to Council that Secondary Suites are permitted in certain zones in Kitimat, provided the houses meet the requirements.

“I would like to see staff come back to us and, with Council’s support, how we can educate and inform the public on Secondary Suites, how zoning can be allowed to cater to the seven aforementioned zones and how this can be incorporated into our Official Community plan to allow secondary suites to be approved by Temporary use Permit and lastly, how utility buildings can be used by families as a secondary suite option to care for their loved ones,” said Empinado.

Councillor’s Mario Feldhoff and Corinne Scott Agreed. Scott stated it would be good to have options to create affordable housing and this was a viable option.

Empinado’s second motion was for the District of Kitimat to collect amenity contributions from candidate development projects and the money be used for affordable housing.

He explained the Council knows there is a need for affordable housing in the community of Kitimat. However, BC Housing offers services but no money. Other small communities have collected amenity contributions for a housing fund or affordable units. Those projects could include hotels, town houses and temporary worker accommodation facilities.

Feldhoff stated affordable housing is a significant issue in Kitimat. However, he disagreed with the spirit of the motion which put the onus on individual developers. He expressed this will drive up rents so this challenge should be addressed by the community as a whole.

“The community as a whole, through our taxation dollar, we can provide support for projects and provide land and what have you but I don’t support making it more challenging for new developers to get on with their projects,” said Feldhoff.

Councillor Mary Murphy agreed with the motion because it was asking for the District of Kitimat to develop a policy. She stated they were discussing earlier this year and then the idea died off. She said this would help them establish a fund which can be used for housing.

Councillor Phil Germuth stated there will be money contributed by PTI, but he did not think it would buy a lot of housing. He suggested asking the Provincial and Federal government to live up to their responsibility towards affordable housing. He expressed there are two big developments contributing to a housing fund but it takes a lot of money to build a house.

Scott was opposed to the motion because it would draw money from people who want to build houses as well as camps, apartments and other developments.

“I think that we are trying to encourage people to move to the community, to put in permanent roots. The construction camps are specifically for temporary workers. It’s a good way of dealing with the temporary workers. However, to have this include single family or two family developments, I can’t agree with that, that every person who wanted to build a house in Kitimat would be paying towards this fund, so I’m going to be voting against this motion,” said Scott.

Councillor Rob Goffinet reminded Scott that this ‘could’ include the building of houses. He saw it as an attempt to tell staff that these are their options. He stated they are not following a policy now. He was going to vote on this because it would allow staff to come back and tell Council how the policy is enforced and advise Council as to why it would not be prudent to include some of these options.

Feldhoff expressed these companies were already being taxed and some were already provided amenity funding. They are already putting money into the pot and there will be more money in the pot as the community grows.

Germuth wanted to know if they could attempt to collect from camps which were already established. He was told no, they would not receive amenity funding from camps in the zones because camps are already permitted in those zones. This funding can only be achieved at the rezoning phase.

Empinado expressed he sees the concerns, but the amenity contributions would create a commitment to create affordable housing at the time of the rezoning before the development begins. “It integrates affordable housing across new developments in the community and ties the impact of new development to affordability of the community as a whole,” said Empinado.

The motion was called and carried. Councillors Scott, Feldhoff and Mayor Monaghan were opposed. The motion carried by one.