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REPORTING · 29th January 2014
Walter McFarlane
Council discussed their Camp Policy on Monday, January 27th under the topic of: Contributions to Affordable Housing. Councillor Mario Feldhoff stated he wanted to have the same set of rules for all of the camp proposals before Kitimat, PTI, Kitimat LNG, Bechtel and so on and so forth.

“They are all having a similar impact on… some of them direct, some of them indirect, on the stresses put on the community and impacting accommodations. I would lean towards having them all have similar rules,” said Feldhoff. “The rules should be the same for everybody from my perspective.”

The Report brought before Council listed the four camp accommodations which are already known to the citizens of Kitimat and their estimated numbers. It suggests solutions for having camps contribute towards affordable housing, sewers, etc…

The Report asks Council to look at reccomendations for M1 Manufacturing zones, which already permit camps as a use, R3B and C12 Zones, where PTI and Crossroads are going to build and asks Council to consider whether new housing developments should contribute to the fund.

Councillor Phil Germuth stated Council was trying to figure out who would contribute to affordable housing before figuring out what options they were going to use to secure affordable housing. He told Council they were going to bring in a lot of money before deciding what they would do. In fact they could have a pile of money for affordable housing which they do not need. He suggested offering incentives to the industries to have them create affordable housing would be great, once they have a procedure to create affordable housing.

Mayor Joanne Monaghan stated it was difficult because there is a limited amount of land in Kitimat and developers did not want to build affordable housing because it does not make them any money. She told Council there has to be a piece of land big enough that there could be rental housing at a rate they could make money on in one corner and regular housing in the other.

Councillor Corrine Scott suggested that any subdivision which is being proposed have a portion of the lots put aside for affordable housing. She added Council has not discussed what they are going to do. They do not have a large parcel of land which they can put aside for an apartment.

“No developer is going to do that, not even if we gave them the land. We have to have a society in place that is going to be operating it. We don’t have that yet. We don’t have anything in place as far as developments go. We’re talking about charging door rate for a fund for affordable housing but we have no plans, as Councillor Germuth says, of what we’re doing for that fund,” said Scott.

Monaghan told her there was a developer. Scott reminded Monaghan this has not come to Council and Monaghan replied, they are working on it so nothing is in stone.

Feldhoff wanted to know which camps in an M1 zone should be contributing to this fund. He stated there are people who should be staying in the camps but are given living out incentives. “That is what creating the problem, not the camp itself but the fact that those people are being unleashed,” said Feldhoff.

He added what project this would support is a completely different discussion.

Councillor Edwin Empinado stated they were looking into strategies. Monetary contribution was one option. However, Administration was presenting a report based on past motions. If they wanted a strategy in place, they should have the discussion about how they attack the issue.

Germuth told Council this came up when PTI was promising $500 per bed. However, Council never figured out how to do this. One developer told the District they do not need money from the District, they need land. He suggested they ask PTI to donate some land which they are not using to create affordable housing. Another option was to contribute the money to other community projects, such as a sidewalk on Haisla Hill. The District could also offer tax breaks for putting affordable housing in.

Councillor Rob Goffinet said there are two large camps are on M1 right now. The Community does not have any way to leverage housing funds from them. He was told the Council can amend zoning at any time provided they go through the public consultation process. The existing camps would become existing non-conforming which means the District would not be able to get a contribution out of the beds already there, but new construction of bed spaces would give them an opportunity to collect on the expansion of the camps.

Councillor Mary Murphy stated the camps were impacting the community with sewer and water. “I don’t think impacting the community by using resources such as housing and our facilities is a problem in town. In actual fact, we want to encourage it,”

She stated the lands the camps were on are industrial lands and this takes the industrial use out of the equation. They also should provide low class housing on new constructions which are coming up.

Scott stated she wanted to place a limit on how long a camp could be there. It was time for a motion relating for the M1 Manufacturing zone.

Councillor Mario Feldhoff moved for administration to bring back a draft bylaw with references to camps and new facilities in an M1 zone provide to an affordable housing fund with time limits in place.

“The one thing we have to remember, the camps that are there right now, our OCP allows that,” said Feldhoff. “No one’s doing anything corporate. They are doing it by the rules we set up in the day. Those rules, to the extent that they can be changed, existing non-conforming, we can’t do anything about that but maybe we can make some corrections moving forward, that’s the spirit of this motion,” said Feldhoff.

Germuth wanted to know if the funds could be used for anything else. He pointed out there was $4,700,000 in funding before Council for this. He wanted affordable housing to be a priority but also have an option to use the funds for something else. He was told, with Council’s consent, it can be put into other reserves so there was leeway. However, with a rezoning, they should make sure the cash is for something tied to the development or housing.

Steve Christiansen, Municipal Treasurer stated he did not think the money was much, the equivalent of a couple of Vancouver houses. However, he would love to have a reserve invested so Council can skim off the interest every year.

Murphy pointed out the funds could be used for seniors housing as well.

Feldhoff suggested the camps provide money to the sewer funds as well. However, this was not a part of the motion but they can give it some thought and come back later. The motion was called and carried. It was suggested that Council partner with an additional group.

Monaghan stated the Council needed to keep in mind: “This affordable housing now is immediate. We have people being evicted that have absolutely no where to go. We don’t want to fool around for months and years.”

Feldhoff moved into other zones, relating to PTI and Bryton Proposal, because they want to treat all the camps consistently. However, Bryton has asked to wave the housing funds in exchange for the sewers which they are putting in. He pointed out Bryton is looking for a sewer main extension. Feldhoff suggested they communicate with them because the sewer could benefit areas of the community which do not have sewer access.

Goffinet stated they need to be briefed on the specifics of this case, and if someone else claims they are not being treated fairly, they could throw in a sewer infrastructure for the benefit of all of Kitimat as well. “They will recognize this is a unique situation and staff can advise us on the objectivity that Councillor Feldhoff wished to apply,” said Goffinet.

Scott pointed out the way this is done in other communities is whoever puts in the infrastructure in can be reimbursed after the fact as others tie into it. A motion was suggested for staff to come back with recommendations for the Bryton Project sewer.

Scott stated she wanted the motion to include: “Any time something extraordinary different in costs, in order to develop, like the Bryton Group having to put in an oversized sewer line, or PTI having to do additional costs that are over and above what are ordinarily needed, like Wakita subdivision, that we do look at those costs and how we can do it without affecting the housing fund, this has nothing to do with it, give them credit somehow for those extraordinary costs.”

Murphy stated the land set the price. The land was cheaper because it would cost them more money to service it. “I don’t know why we are involved in it because if formula is correct, that would be incorporated in their price,” said Murphy.

The motion was made, called and carried. It was pointed out by staff the public hearing is ongoing.

Council moved on to development density. Councillor Mario Feldhoff stated he was worried if they asked land owners to put aside land for affordable housing, they would drive up the cost of the market housing in an attempt to subsidize the affordable housing. He wanted solutions which look at taxpayers as a whole rather than pinning the development of affordable housing onto new developments.

Scott stated this would not change anything because most developers set aside land for parks and for schools. Even just providing the lots would be all right, but they need to determine the size of the development. While Kitimat’s developments have been small, this could not be the case in the next couple of years.

Murphy stated she would like to see ‘X’ number of apartments dedicated to affordable housing. She pointed out they are already working on each apartment building having a number of accessible apartments.

Germuth explained in the lower mainland, they have low, medium and high costs, going by the square footage. He expressed high could be made from the best materials, affordable housing would still look nice but it would be made from lesser materials.

Monaghan said she talked about this at FCM and she was told low cost housing does not work if it is in the same building as high cost housing. It makes people antsy. It could be in the same neighbourhood. Murphy wished to correct her.

“It’s been around for years. We just called it different things. We moved into a basement apartment because it was cheap. We moved into the middle floor because we had a little bit more money. Then guess what? We made it to the top floor,” said Murphy.

Feldhoff stated he was concerned this was a new way to make new home owners subsidize affordability when it should be a community response, otherwise, it could drive costs higher. Germuth suggested they could sweeten the deal with a tax break.

A motion was made for staff to prepare a report on policy for affordable housing options. The motion was called and carried. Council would go on to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities report on the Canadian Housing Crunch and options, but that is a topic for another time.