Return of $500,000 grant frees up money for low-income housing

The stars appear to be aligning for the city to provide $1 million in funding for a proposed Cool Aid housing project on Vancouver Street.

Almost $500,000 in housing-grant funds are being freed up just as Victoria prepares to consider a $1-million application to help renovate Mount Edwards Court Care home into low-income supportive housing.

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The Victoria Cool Aid Society has an option to buy the Mount Edwards Court Care Home building on Vancouver Street and plans to convert it into a supportive-housing facility with 101 suites. The society is planning $9 million in renovations to the Mount Edwards site and has made application to the city for $1 million in funding.

City staff have received the Cool Aid application, although Victoria council isn’t expected to see it until next month.

But city staff are now reporting that a $460,000 grant approved in 2009 to help the Capital Region Housing Corporation create 46 new units of non-market rental housing at Dockside Green is no longer needed and will be available for new projects.

“It’s a good coincidence when we’ve granted money and then people can build affordable housing without the city’s money,” Mayor Lisa Helps said. “It’s a good thing to have it coming back into the pot, whether it’s for the Cool Aid development or something else.”

Although the funds were approved, the planned affordable-housing project did not proceed following a change in Dockside Green ownership, says the report.

Dockside Green has now entered into a partnership with Catalyst Community Development Society to build 49 units of affordable housing and has said the $460,000 is no longer required.

Victoria’s Housing Reserve Fund has $603,358 available for new projects. Cancellation of the Dockside Green grant would mean $1,063,358 would be available for new projects, says the city staff report.

Cool Aid has already raised $1.8 million toward the project, to be called the Dr. Joe Haegert Centre, in honour of a physician who dedicated his career to treating marginalized people.

Meanwhile, the prospect of having housing for homeless people next door is being opposed by the board of directors at Christ Church Cathedral School.

The Christ Church Cathedral Educational Society board has concluded that the facility should not be at the site. The school is attended by 190 students, ages three to 14.

Helps said the opposition is fear-based and not unlike concerns raised before a temporary homeless facility opened Jan. 5 in the city-owned old Boys and Girls Club building on Yates Street across from Central Middle School. The goal of the facility is to provide an alternative for people camping at the tent city on the grounds of the Victoria courthouse.

“It’s the same kind of thing that happened at Central Middle School when they were opposed to the My Place temporary housing. Now that that is up and running, there’s nary a complaint,” Helps said.

bcleverley@timescolonist.com

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