A motion coming to Victoria council this week aims to get all people sheltering outdoors in city parks indoor housing, with a path to permanent housing by early 2021.
The motion, put forward by Mayor Lisa Helps and Coun. Jeremy Loveday, asks that the city, along with Island Health and BC Housing, offer housing or indoor shelter to everyone currently sheltering outdoors by March 31, 2021. In addition, the motion sets the same deadline for the end of 24/7 sheltering in city parks.
Throughout this year, it’s estimated the city has spent $1.4 million for managing sheltering in parks and if things continue the way they are, it’s predicted that the city will accrue a $1.7 million expenditure for the same issue.
“We understand that not all of the solutions outlined in the recommendations will be implemented by March 31. But we are confident that working together with BC Housing and Island Health that enough indoor spaces can be provided by March 31, while medium-term solutions – like the construction of affordable, supportive housing on Yates Street and Meares Street through modular (quick) construction methods – will follow,” reads the motion.
One of the recommendations asks staff to work with a private land owner or use city-owned land for the construction of temporary tiny home clusters of no more than 30 units.
Another recommendation is requesting the province open the vacant Oak Bay Lodge for people who are 55 or older and currently living in city parks until the building is demolished for redevelopment.
“We don’t think we should accept as a community is that it is more acceptable for seniors to spend the winter in tents than it is for them to spend the winter in a building recently vacated by seniors,” reads the motion.
The city has also set a new goal has been set of getting at least 200 of the approximately 250 people currently living outside, moved indoors by Dec. 31.
In order to do this, 60 units open this month in Langford and View Royal and rent for $375 per month as part of the Regional Housing First Program. People who are living in motels, shelters or supportive housing can move into these units and then 60 people living outside can move into the vacated spaces. The motion states that some people who are living outside may also move directly into one of these 60 units.
Another 24 units for treatment are available at Our Place’s Therapeutic Recovery Community in View Royal.
Additionally, BC Housing will provide 100 rent supplements – a top-up provided to the income assistance rates to make it possible for people living in supportive housing to move into market rental units. The plan is then to have people living in parks move into supportive housing units that are vacated. The people provided with the rent supplements would have $825 per month for rent and are “ready to move out of shelters or supportive housing” but may need light supports, which Island Health would provide.
The average price for a one-bedroom in Victoria is about $1,600. The $825 covers just over half of that, which is acknowledged in the plan. According to the motion, the mayor and others are working on a “creative solution to fill the funding gap.”