Housing association formed

Formed to address homelessness and the need for affordable housing

A new housing organization has been formed to address homelessness and the need for affordable housing in the Cowichan Valley.

Following seven years of research, planning and dedicated community engagement around the issues of homelessness and affordable housing, a new organization has grown out of the work of the Regional Affordable Housing Directorate (RAHD), a committee of Social Planning Cowichan. The newly-named Cowichan Housing Association is guided by the community-directed vision of being a “co-ordinating body for affordable housing resources and services in the Cowichan Region, with a primary focus on the prevention of homelessness,” according to a press release from Social Planning Cowichan.

“This marks a new stage in our work,” Brigid Reynolds, a board member with the new organization, said in the release. “Through the contributions of many individuals and agencies over the past seven years, we have gained a greater understanding of the issues and we have developed a number of programs to serve members of our community who are facing a variety of housing-related challenges. In establishing the new society, we are moving closer toward the goal of developing more affordable housing units in the region.”

From the beginning, the goal of Social Planning Cowichan was to incubate and support work on affordable housing until a new organization could be formed, according to the release.

“There is no question of the need for more affordable housing in our community, and having an independent organization that can focus all of its efforts on preventing homelessness will greatly benefit the Cowichan Valley,” said Jenn George, chair of Social Planning Cowichan.

RAHD was established as a committee of Social Planning in 2007. In its early years, RAHD developed several benchmark reports, such as Inadequate Shelter in the Cowichan and a Regional Housing Strategy. Recently, RAHD has expanded operations into such programs as Ready to Rent, a small rental assistance fund, hosting workshops on tenants’ rights, Homeless Action Week — Day of Services, and producing a Street Survival Guide for people facing homelessness.

“Through the work that is already happening in the community, and the complimentary programs we offer, the regional safety net for homelessness prevention has been growing stronger,” said Regional Affordable Housing co-ordinator Joy Emmanuel. “However, there is still a great deal of work to do.”

Social Planning Cowichan states that the Cowichan Housing Association will continue to build on the work that has already taken place and will work to identify new ways to provide and assist with obtaining more affordable housing in the region. Activities led by the RAHD will become part of the new housing society, and RAHD will continue to be an open table where interested stakeholders can stay informed and provide feedback on CHA’s activities.

There’s an opportunity to learn more about the new housing society during a meeting Tuesday, Feb. 10 from 5-7 p.m. in the third-floor boardroom at the Island Savings Centre in Duncan.