Charity might begin at home, but it apparently doesn’t stop at Victoria’s municipal boundaries.
In what is being heralded as a local first, the city will contribute $112,000 to an affordable housing project to be built at 3211-3223 Quadra St., just north of Tolmie Avenue in Saanich, near the Victoria border.
Only Coun. Geoff Young voted against the application at a planning committee meeting on Thursday, arguing there has to be a limit to where and how Victoria taxpayers’ dollars are spent.
Saanich will also provide a $112,000 grant.
The grants are in addition to an estimated $675,000 being sought from the Capital Regional District Housing Trust Fund to which Victoria, Saanich and other municipalities contribute.
The $7.4-million Cool Aid Society project on Quadra, called Cottage Grove, plans 45 units of supportive housing for tenants 55 years and older who are homeless or at risk of being homeless.
Cottage Grove is not the only project outside Victoria looking for the city’s help. A developer has applied to the city’s housing reserve fund for 35 units of affordable housing on Comeford Street in Esquimalt. As well, a non-profit wants to build 42 units of supportive housing in Saanich for older women and women with children at risk of homelessness.
But Young asked:“How far afield are we prepared to go spending our citizens’ money in other municipalities — or perhaps in other regions to address homelessness issues that might eventually affect Victoria?”
Victoria’s housing reserve fund has about $1 million for new projects. A staff report says matching Saanich’s contribution “sends a positive message” about Victoria’s willingness to partner with other municipalities to address homelessness and provide affordable housing.
Several councillors agreed.
“We have to always remind others that homelessness is not just a City of Victoria problem and not just a City of Victoria solution,” said Coun. Charlayne Thornton-Joe. Solutions “need to be broader … recognizing that this one, although outside the City of Victoria, is less than a block away.”
Mayor Lisa Helps said Victoria needs to reach out to Saanich to fund projects in Victoria and this “historic” approval should be celebrated.
Young said he understands that some Victoria homelessness issues stem from policies elsewhere.
“So I can certainly see the logic of extending our spending to other areas. But I can also see the logic in us not doing that precisely because there is no end to it. Where are we going to stop spending our money — our taxpayers’ money — not our money?”
Saanich Coun. Fred Haynes, also vice-chairman of the Regional Housing Trust Fund Commission, said applications from Victoria would be considered on merit. He added affordable and supportive housing are the “crisis of our time” and that if partnerships with other municipalities could deliver good results, he would be in favour of looking at those cases.