Why I am against the affordable housing tax: Clement

Why isn't affordable housing being built already?

Why I am against the affordable housing tax: Clement

I grew up during my school years knowing only an apartment because it’s all we could afford.

I have experienced the severe anxiety that comes with looking for a rental with only days left.

And only this year did I get to know what home ownership was like.

So on a deeply personal level, I WANT to see an affordable housing function happen in the CVRD but HOW we are going about it seems all wrong. Throwing close to $1 million a year at the problem is probably going to help but I have too many questions for me to support this current action.

Why isn’t affordable housing being built already?

Just in the rental market there is a HUGE demand, yet we are not seeing units built.

What roadblocks exist at the CVRD to affordable housing to be built? Zoning regulations? Permit wait times? Short staffed? And can these be solved for less than $750,000 a year?

I know the answer is yes. By shortening permit wait times with additional staff, investors would be more likely to create the housing we need. There are municipalities with 48-72 hour turnaround times!

I know of a local couple who built two houses but while waiting three months for a permit, racking up $15,000 in interest on private loans. Imagine how much a 40-100 unit developer eats in interest when doing this kind of work. If the business case and dollars don’t make sense, why would a developer take on a losing project?

Or let’s take the financial hit another way: the CVRD general manager of planning estimates that there are roughly 2,000 possible secondary suites within the CVRD with existing zoning. What if we waived permit fees for secondary suites and expedited the applications to grow our rental housing stock?

Why did we go with the first organization that came to us? What organization in the history of the CVRD has received $750,000?

The folks at Cowichan Housing have their hearts in the right place but they are not the only housing organization out there. Two hundred and fifty thousand dollars per year will be used for just administration and staffing.

Why can’t we hold onto all the funds and work with developers to entice affordable housing?

Or imagine how much land we could buy with $750,000 per year. There have been municipalities that have owned/purchased land only to sell it for $1 with strict terms and conditions for a developer to build on it. This can help create sustainable long term affordable housing with a service delivery model.

I understand the good intentions by my peers at the CVRD board table. We have all been touched by the housing and rental crunch. Friends and family members who need a home but can’t find one too common of a story.

But just like when we go to buy our first car or first home, we need to separate emotions from fact. We need to shop around, get second/third opinions and be sure that we are being diligent in our efforts to fix this long term problem. Throwing the money at the problem today isn’t going to solve the problem tomorrow so let’s make sure we did our best to find the best solution.

Matteus Clement

Cobble Hill