A working group discussing problems around the lack of affordable housing in Powell River has decided to step up to take the lead on solving the problem.
City of Powell River councillor Maggie Hathaway, who has led the informal group since it was reinvigorated in 2016, said it is comprised of representatives from multiple non-profit organizations and has been meeting to share information. The group is looking at incorporating in September as a formal organization to tackle the issue, she added.
With the current system for funding social housing construction, non-profits apply to BC Housing when the province makes funds available. In many cases, societies apply against each other for the same limited funds, said Hathaway.
“Each non-profit has been working separate and apart,” she said. “We don’t want every group applying for the same funds.”
The new non-profit would coordinate its efforts to work with developers and local governments to ensure enough housing is being created.
On Tuesday, June 27, 15 members of the working group met for a workshop led by social plan developer Christien Kaaij.
Kaaij, who is on contract with the city, is helping the group establish a terms of reference and take steps to address the issue of not enough affordable, accessible and suitable housing available in the region.
“The group is unanimous that a more coordinated approach is needed to address the housing issue,” said Kaaij. “The will is there to form some kind of collaborative body, potentially a housing society.”
Powell River Employment Program Society’s 2016 Community Social Plan report, based on community input gathered from the Tapping the Groundswell conference in 2015, recommended the city develop an independent, municipally owned corporation to oversee the development, administration and management of affordable housing.
According to Hathaway, the issue of affordable housing is something that extends beyond the boundaries of the city and for the problem to be addressed it needs to be approached from a regional standpoint.
“The bottom line is we need to work together and the city can’t carry the load any longer,” said Hathaway.
At the last C3 community forum in the winter, Powell River Regional District, Tla’amin Nation and the city agreed to look at solving the affordable housing issue through coordinated action.
Since 2011, when Kaaij was involved in helping to draft the city’s homelessness strategy, the gap between have and have-nots has continued to widen and not much progress has been made addressing homelessness and affordable housing issues, she said.
She added that if a housing society is formed, the current working group would dissolve into the new society.
“Our community,” she said, “is ready for something like this.”