Victoria gives funds to second housing project beyond city borders

In what Coun. Geoff Young worries is opening the floodgates, Victoria councillors have agreed to provide up to $297,000 in funding toward another affordable housing project outside Victoria city limits, in Saanich.

“I, frankly, am having a lot of difficulty in finding the common sense under this proposal because I can assure you this is not the end,” Young said. “This is only the beginning and there’s going to be a stream of them [applications] coming in and they are going to be farther and farther away.”

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In September, Victoria councillors agreed to match Saanich’s contribution of $112,000 for an affordable housing project called Cottage Grove to be built at 3211-3223 Quadra St., near Tolmie Avenue in Saanich, just outside Victoria city limits.

After considerable debate Thursday, Victoria councillors turned down a staff recommendation to contribute $420,000 for a 42-unit affordable housing project planned by St. Vincent de Paul, to be called Rosalie’s Village at 4351 West Saanich Road. Instead, councillors agreed to match Saanich’s planned contribution of $172,262. In the hope of making up the funding shortfall, councillors decided to increase the city’s contribution up to $297,000, if Saanich agrees to do the same.

Young said the decision crossed a line he is not prepared to step over. “I’m not going to think about setting myself up as a conditional funder that is trying to encourage other municipalities to match the funds that we’re putting into projects in their municipality.”

Young noted that city taxpayers are already contributing $175,000 toward the project through the city’s 28.1 per cent share of the $620,000 coming from the Capital Regional District’s regional housing trust fund, and that’s an appropriate contribution. “We should stop there and not attempt to negotiate or act as the big-bucks funder to help encourage Saanich to contribute more,” Young said.

Coun. Chris Coleman was the only councillor to support Young, saying the contribution was too high.

Staff had originally recommended Victoria contribute $420,000 to the project in keeping with its affordable housing funding formula of $10,000 a door.

Mayor Lisa Helps said she would have supported a $420,000 grant, saying the issue has nothing to do with where the housing is to be built.

“All those homeless moms, they’re not living in Saanich; they’re living in Victoria. To me, it’s ridiculous. It turned into a whole debate about do we support Saanich or not. This has nothing to do with supporting Saanich. It has everything to do with supporting homeless moms who are living on the streets of Victoria.”

Rosalie’s Village is to be targeted at single mothers 18 to 19 years old with children, who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, and vulnerable older women referred from transition houses or subsidized family housing. The project will include a daycare (free for tenants), a community kitchen, multi-purpose room and a social concern office.

Coun. Marianne Alto said the project is worthwhile and the matching the contribution from the host municipality is “fair and equitable.”

Coun. Margaret Lucas said the “real issue” should be housing people. “We’re going to spend that money one way or another, and as far as I’m concerned, let’s spend it in the right direction,” she said. “Why do we care if it’s in Saanich or whether it’s in Sooke?”

At the suggestion of Coun. Charlayne Thornton-Joe, councillors also agreed that until the policy is reviewed, Victoria’s future contribution to such projects outside the city shall be no more than the contribution from the host municipality and not exceed the city trust fund guidelines of $10,000 per door.

bcleverley@timescolonist.com

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