REPORTING · 25th May 2015
Kitimat City Council had a number of questions relating to the Grant Request from the Mountainview Housing Society on Monday, May 4th. Councillor Rob Goffinet had several questions for Pastor Don Read, who was representing the society and who was present at the meeting.
“When we initially heard the request in April, I know there was a note seeking a matching grant of $15,000 to finalize an environmental assessment, stage two,” said Goffinet. “Initially the grant of $15,000, we are entertaining a possible $20,000. Can you explain the difference?”
Read explained to Council they had originally had a verbal commitment from BC Housing for $15,000 and they discovered what was being said publically did not work out privately. He had a conference call with BC Housing which had been bumped repeatedly until the night of the Council Meeting.
However, LNG Canada had looked at what the Housing Society was offering and contributed $10,000 the previous week.
Councillor Claire Rattee was concerned the Council did not have any policies in place relating to this kind of grant because it was not an operation which was being run by the District and she did not want to set a precedent for similar organizations to ask for grants.
She also stated she was concerned with Shell leasing some of the units. Rattee stated this was supposed to be housing for people with disabilities and senior citizens and she did not want to see this project simply leased to Shell, especially if they were putting taxpayer money into it.
Read assured her they were only planning to lease a maximum 8 of the 30 planned units to private industry. These units would be on a five year lease.
“It’s creating a creative partnership with industry where we’re helping them meet a need but what they’re doing is funding one third of the housing and the difference between leasing those eight units or not leasing those eight units is us coming to Council and asking for $20,000 or us coming to Council and saying we need $1.25 million dollars because that’s the amount of revenue that would be created in it,” said Read.
He told Council they were partnering to provide an affordable service to people in Kitimat who needed it the most. He said this was no different than providing playground equipment for the local children. He asked Council to gauge the values of the community and who would be responsible for them.
“If it always lands on the edge of charitable organizations and non-profits, I think then as a community, we really need to reflect and say: ‘what does it mean to be a community?’ To me, a community is really measured and gauged by how well we care for the vulnerable,” said Read.
He added that without the strategic partnerships, nothing would get done.
Mayor Phil Germuth asked, if the District puts the money in and the environmental study does not come back positive, the church will sell the property and pay the money back to the District. Read said it was only a possibility and the decision would have to be made in Surrey. He told the Church had originally purchased the property for use as a school and they were making it available for affordable housing. If the plan falls through, they could sell the property and make the money available for affordable housing.
Councillor Mario Feldhoff thanked Read for clarifying about the 30 units. He asked if there were any other monetary commitments the society would need from down the road. Read said they would probably be back for some funding from the camp beds. He also recalled being invited to Council to ask for money by Feldhoff himself.
“We will probably be coming back when we have our capital budget in place, looking for how the District wants to be a partner in that,” said Read.
He said the first thing they have to do is create a strategic partnership with the industry. However, they need to do the second stage of the environmental study done first.
Feldhoff thanked Read for all they have done because social housing is one of Council’s priorities.
Councillor Mary Murphy said there was another project for 55 units of social housing who also looked for a density bonus and the Council of the day chose not to approve it. She wanted to know if the Council would have to approve a density to ‘squeeze’ the homes onto the property in question.
Read explained the District has already made it clear they could have thirty units on the property without it being high density. “There is enough land there to put up to 30 units without having to apply for a special density zoning,” said Read.
Rattee asked what the District’s policies were about this and wanted to know what was previously on the land and why there was no record of it.
Read told Council he has a lead on what was there and they are following it up with BC Hydro. There was no Substation on the property, but member of the public who played there as children have come forward to say there was. He suspects there was a lay down area for the materials used in the development of Whitesail.
Planning Director, Gwendolyn Sewell told Rattee the Affordable Housing fund had no money in it. It was an entity which the Department Staff have been working on the policies for. They have not completed the work, which is on hold for now. They will get back to it when they are able.
Councillor Edwin Empinado asked if this was a project 3-4 years in the works, working alongside the Housing Committee, following when Council changed the terms of the Housing Committee. He was told this was correct. Empinado asked if they had formed a not for profit committee to take the lead. He was told this was correct as well.
Germuth asked for a timeline if the environmental assessment goes through. He explained they might not have a camp, depending on final investment decisions, meaning they also would not have the money for the affordable housing until the camp was in place.
Read said it was critical. They were working with industry, but working with BC Housing was not a cakewalk because of the bureaucracy. He told Council they were thinking outside the box to try and start building next year. However, he has found the process is so complicated, he does not want to be held to that timeline because of how complicated the process is.
Rattee wanted to know when the District of Kitimat’s housing fund would be ready. She suggested if it was a reasonable timeline, they would put it through. Sewell told her it was a high priority task. However, it had gone off the rails. Sewell is currently focused on development.
Empinado stated the Council was advocating for housing. Delta King was put together by people, industries, BC Housing and Council.
Councillor Rob Goffinet made a motion to provide a grant up to $20,000 to the housing society for their environmental study for their project. He expressed the Housing Committee has been talking about this for years and Read has been working on it for a year. The committee is gifting their time, skills and money for special needs. He said $20,000 was not an imposition.
Councillor Mario Feldhoff agreed. He said it addresses a critical community need that was important to the community. The committee was working hard and Council should help keep the momentum going rather than hindering them.
The motion was called and carried.