- Our Town
Housing society, city trade shots over affordable housing delays
The delay in building 12 new affordable housing units in Revelstoke spilled into council chambers, with the Revelstoke Community Housing Society blaming the city for the delays and the mayor putting the blame on the society.
“I have to express my frustration and disappointment that we’re not moving faster,” said Mayor David Raven during Tuesday’s council meeting. “Short of digging a hole myself, it’s not going to get there.”
He was responding to a request on the council agenda for the city to enter into a 60-year lease with the housing society that was accompanied by a letter from housing society chair Mark McKee saying delays at city hall were threatening the project.
“It is time for the city to not only say they support the project but to actually put some firm actions to ensure this project becomes reality,” wrote McKee in his letter.
For now, the issue is the delays in getting the housing society’s building permits issued so it can proceed with a multi-million dollar affordable housing project on Oscar Street. BC Housing has committed $1.4 million to the project, but that money is at risk if the development doesn’t move forward soon.
According to a staff report, there are still three outstanding items that need to be resolved before the units can be built:
— The city and society need to sign a lease on the land;
— The city needs to issue the society a building permit;
— The city or society needs to obtain exemption from the new home owner warranty.
On Tuesday, council approved a motion to allow the housing society to either enter sign a 60-year lease with the city or gain ownership over the property. Tim Palmer, the city’s Chief Administrative Officer, told council that the 45-page lease was close to being complete. Once it is signed, the city could then apply for exemption from new homeowner protection warranty.
However, the housing society could choose to obtain ownership of the property, meaning it would have to apply for the exemption.
Council was told the building permit couldn’t be issued without the exemption. Dean Strachan, the manager of development services, said provincial legislation required the exemption be obtained before a building permit could be issued. He also said the planning department hadn’t received all the drawings needed to sign off on the building permit.
The housing society asked the city to expedite all processes.
“We are concerned that any further delays in the approval processes from both the city and BC Housing will delay the construction start date, which will result in further increased construction costs, or a delay until the spring which may involve a whole re-tendering process,” wrote McKee. “This would put the project back at the starting gate, which may put our successful $1.4 million BC housing grant in jeopardy. This will reflect badly on all of us if this funding is lost.”
Raven placed the blame on the housing society for not managing the project properly and not setting any deadlines for the different tasks that needed completing.
“In most of these projects there has to be a very rigid timeline, with very specific goals and accountabilities, and that seems to be missing,” he said.
Naturally, the housing society took the opposing view.
“If the city thinks they are bending over backwards to help us and support us by being expeditious, sorry we don’t see it,” wrote McKee. “Hopefully you can sense the level of frustration everyone on the RCHS Board is feeling. Especially when we are so close to getting something done. It’s time to stand up and do something.
“If Council and staff cannot get these approvals in place immediately, then we should have a joint meeting with everyone at the table, Council, Board, staff, consultants, and contractors. to figure out why.”
With Raven indicating he is running for a third term as mayor, and rumours swirling that McKee will run against him, the dispute has the makings of a political battle during this November’s election.