Sunday, October 1, 2023
October 1, 2023

‘Counter petition’ seeks approval for housing borrowing

For once, according to elected officials, the best way to help might be to do nothing. 

A new Capital Regional District (CRD) initiative allowing the district more borrowing power in the name of affordable housing will require elector approval — but in the form of an Alternative Approval Process (AAP) or “counter petition,” where the measure succeeds by having fewer signatures. CRD director Gary Holman said he supports the plan, partly because Salt Spring has had good success in accessing funding under this kind of program in the past. 

The proposal is similar to the CRD’s earlier Regional Housing First program, Holman said — which involved borrowing matched by BC Housing and the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, and brought funding to the 54-unit Croftonbrook Islanders Working Against Violence (IWAV) project. 

“In addition to Croftonbrook, projects including Murakami Gardens, Salt Spring Commons, the Cedars and BC Housing’s Drake Road supported housing facility are examples of [such] success,” he said. 

In the new proposal, the CRD intends to increase its borrowing authority through the Land Assembly, Housing and Land Banking service to $85 million to support potential partnership opportunities to increase the supply of affordable, inclusive and adequate housing in the region. The current requisition capacity — as set by the service’s bylaw — is already fully committed to affordable housing projects under development.

“We need to be nimble, we need to be determined and we need to signal a willingness to invest in solutions,” said CRD board chair Colin Plant, “so we can quickly take advantage of new housing opportunities and provincial or federal government programs that will allow us to secure more units for those in need in this region.” 

CRD staff said they are exploring a range of partnerships related to “acquiring and preserving existing affordable housing, acquiring lands on or near transit corridors, acquiring and/or advancing affordable housing projects, and looking into longer-term partnership opportunities with other orders of government.” 

Staff will be conducting the AAP in the coming weeks. If the counter petition “fails,” investment could begin as early as 2024. Holman said specifics on the taxpayers’ burden would be finalized as part of the AAP, but preliminary estimates he’d been shown by CRD staff indicated an average-value property on Salt Spring would incur less than $2.50 per month in borrowing cost.  

“So I hope voters will support this affordable housing initiative,” said Holman, “by not signing the petition.” 


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