John Horn is the new executive director of the Cowichan Housing Association. (Submitted photo)

Cowichan Valley Regional District’s affordable-housing strategy moves forward

Board signs three-year financial agreement for initiatives

John Horn wants to see more affordable housing units in place across the Cowichan Valley as quickly as possible.

Horn, the new executive director of the Cowichan Housing Association and the former social planner for the City of Nanaimo, said the CHA has spent a lot of time and effort since last fall’s successful referendum on affordable housing in the region researching and devising strategies on how to best implement the housing initiative.

RELATED STORY: WATER AND HOUSING SERVICES MOVE FORWARD AFTER COWICHAN VOTE

“We’re dedicated to taking the aspirations of the community in regards to the affordable housing crisis and making them into concrete reality,” he said.

“The preliminary work is now done and we’re planning on starting taking funding applications by Aug. 1. I’m as anxious to get housing projects started here as the next guy.”

The majority of voters across the Cowichan Valley Regional District — including the Ladysmith area — gave the green light to establishing an affordable housing initiative, that would cost a maximum of $765,000 per year, in last fall’s referendum.

RELATED STORY: CVRD PROPOSES NEW TAX TO ASSIST WITH AFFORDABLE HOUSING

At last week’s CVRD board meeting, directors approved a three-year financial contribution agreement with the CHA to provide programs and services related to affordable housing and homelessness prevention in the Valley, beginning on Jan. 1, 2019.

The agreement states that the district will contribute up to one-third of the total approved budget to the CHA for operational costs, and up to two-thirds of the approved budget will be placed in a trust fund held by the CVRD.

In 2019, the trust fund contribution will be reduced by the referendum costs of $108,360.

In August, when the requisition funds have been received, the CVRD will place the balance of the grant funds in its reserve fund.

Funds will then be issued to board-approved projects after the CHA submits a request.

Horn, a professional planner who has been working on the issues of affordable housing and homelessness for the last 14 years, said plans are to distribute the funding in three ways.

He said the first strategy is to take applications from developers for financial help in project development, which would help pay for business plans, surveys and other required work.

“This will help the builders get the pieces in place in their housing plans,” Horn said.

“Another type of funding will be capital contributions to help with the actual building construction. We would want to see good leverage, and would like to see up to $5 from senior levels of government and other sources for every $1 we contribute.”

RELATED STORY: B.C. TO INVEST $492 MILLION IN AFFORDABLE HOMES

The third type of funding will be emergency assistance funding.

Horn said when people are forced out of their homes due to floods, fires or for some other reason, they could apply for funding for a few nights in a hotel to hold them over if needed.

“We still have a little bit of time before Aug. 1 to work out the application process,” he said.

“We aim to be responsive to the needs out there in a timely manner so we’ll try to have as [little] bureaucracy as possible in the application process. We want construction on these projects started as soon as possible.”



robert.barron@cowichanvalleycitizen.com

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