Getting more people out of tents and into indoor housing before the worst of the fall and winter weather hits will be key for making the most of federal Rapid Housing Initiative funding allocated for Greater Victoria. (Black Press Media file photo)

Getting more people out of tents and into indoor housing before the worst of the fall and winter weather hits will be key for making the most of federal Rapid Housing Initiative funding allocated for Greater Victoria. (Black Press Media file photo)

Clock starts ticking for use of federal housing funds in Greater Victoria

CRD staff have until Nov. 27 to submit capital project plan to federal housing body

Capital Regional District staff will need to work fast in the coming weeks to hit deadlines associated with at least $13 million in federal funding, being made available to house homeless individuals or those at risk of becoming homeless.

As part of its $1-billion Rapid Housing Initiative, the federal government informed the CRD in October that it had been allocated $13.056 million to help create a minimum of 52 units of new permanent housing aimed at vulnerable populations. That can come in the form of new modular housing, conversions or rehabilitation of existing residential or commercial spaces, or other new construction.

On Wednesday the CRD’s hospitals and housing committee unanimously authorized staff to negotiate and execute agreements with the government to ensure the funding is secured and used.

RELATED STORY: Feds allocate $13M to Capital Region to create affordable housing

The money comes with a list of criteria that includes a deadline of Nov. 27 for the submission of an investment plan to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), outlining capital projects to be built in Greater Victoria.

Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps, who chairs the committee, put it succinctly before directors cast their votes:

“The criteria for this money is it has to be capital, so it has to build things,” she said. She also pointed out that if the CRD partners with a non-profit housing provider on a project, the CRD remains responsible for maintaining the federal initiative’s criteria for 20 years.

Kevin Lorette, general manager of planning and protective services, said municipalities were contacted and given a Nov. 9 deadline to let the CRD know of land available within their jurisdiction that is already zoned for housing. CRD staff have also been meeting regularly with CMHC representatives and exploring ways to leverage the federal funds to create even more units.

RELATED STORY: Beacon Hill Park’s unhoused install community tent as Victoria weather turns wet

Current estimates have approximately 350 people sheltering outdoors, an amount made higher by the fact COVID-19 is limiting numbers in the city’s regular indoor shelters. Many suffer from mental health issues and/or addictions and need additional supports. CRD chief administrative officer Bob Lapham said the plan is to build partnerships with service providers in parallel with the creation of housing.

Before the brief discussion of authorizing staff to take further actions, members of the public voiced concerns about the negative effect on the neighbourhood of the Central Park encampment and made pleas for the use of the federal money.

Several called for revisiting using Oak Bay Lodge as a temporary solution to get more people out of thin nylon tents, and to have appropriate washroom and shower facilities during the cold fall and winter months.

“The homeless need homes now and Victoria residents need their parks back,” said Allan Gallupe with the Friends of Central Park.

“The current situation is unsafe, inhumane and needs to be addressed,” added Heather Rock. “We need to use [the money] for immediate housing, rather than making new affordable housing units. What is needed at this time is immediate shelter capacity.”


 

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