Federal funding to help build 91 supportive-housing units in Saanich, Central Saanich

Shovels could be in the ground within weeks for a pair of supportive housing projects that will provide 91 permanent homes for the homeless and those at risk of being homeless.

Using $13.1 million from the federal government’s Rapid Housing Initiative, the Capital Regional District and B.C. Housing will soon start work on projects in Saanich and Central Saanich that will be completed within a year.

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That tight time frame is important as the federal Rapid Housing funding requires the projects to be completed within a year and target vulnerable populations.

“Investments with our municipal partners like the Capital Regional District will go a long way to effectively support those who need it most by quickly providing new affordable homes to vulnerable individuals and families to keep them safe,” said federal Minister of Families, Children and Social Development Ahmed Hussen.

The projects will see Saanich get 52 supported units at a complex in the 2900-block of Albina Street while Central Saanich will have 39 new homes built at 1909 Prosser Rd.

David Eby, provincial attorney general and minister responsible for housing, said the province has invoked provincial statutory immunity or paramountcy, which gives the province the right to proceed and allows work on the projects to start immediately and avoid the usual municipal approval process.

On a day when he announced details of four other supportive housing projects in Victoria, Eby told reporters Wednesday the hundreds of people living in parks or encampments around the region underlines the urgency of the housing crisis in the region.

“The challenge of housing is not limited to the city of Victoria,” he said. “We need partnerships across the CRD to deliver housing support to people and prevent the crisis we’re seeing play out in Victoria.”

The province will provide operational funding for the supportive housing projects for the next 20 years.

Calling it a partnership of all levels of government, Saanich Mayor Fred Haynes said the municipality’s role will be to ensure the infrastructure is lined up.

B.C. Housing intends to launch information sessions to answer questions from the communities affected.

Gabe Epstein, president of the Gorge Tillicum Community Association, where the Albina project is situated, would only say the association has not yet had time to discuss the project, or any project of its kind.

The projects come with support services for each resident and will be made available to people who are staying in temporarily leased hotel sites, as well as those experiencing homelessness.

Hussen said there may also be more to come. He hopes the next federal budget will include additional cash for the $1 billion Rapid Housing Initiative, which so far has launched the construction of more than 4,700 units across the country.

aduffy@timescolonist.com

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