Comox Valley voters approve tax to fund homelessness projects

Comox Valley voters approved a small tax increase in a referendum over the weekend. The money will go towards new projects to combat homelessness.

Referendum had low turnout, but passed 1,608 to 1,426

Currently, one of the few existing services for homeless people in the Comox Valley is the Comox Bay Care Society Care-A-Van mobile health care unit. (comoxbaycare.org)

Voters in the Comox Valley have just agreed to a new tax to fund housing solutions for homeless people and those at risk of becoming homeless.

The Comox Valley Regional District held a referendum on establishing a tax to fund housing and support services, and by a 1,608 to 1,426 margin, the answer from voters was yes.

Helen Boyd with the Comox Bay Care Society and Comox Valley Coalition to End Homelessness called the result "very positive."

"It isn't a huge sum of money, but … it shows good volition from the communities of the Comox Valley to participate in resolving this issue," she told All Points West host Robyn Burns.

"Hopefully, it will encourage the provincial and federal levels [to contribute] more money."

Boyd said the tax should start to be collected in July at a rate of about $6 per year for an average house, and will generate about $180,000 per year.

She said the money will be collected by the CVRD and then distributed to non-profits designated as the lead agency on the projects.

The money will be mostly spent on supportive housing projects and transitional housing, which Boyd said is "barely existing" in the Comox Valley.

In year one, the money will be spent on four units of transitional housing at recovery centres.

"The hope is that rather than have people relapse, they will have a period of stability of one to two years to regain the autonomy and independence in their life," she said.

The referendum follows a non-binding ballot question during the last municipal election that got 71 per cent support.

Boyd said she thinks the low turnout for this vote could have been because people thought they already voted on the issue.

The result still has to go to CVRD board for a ratification vote on Dec. 15, and the tally will be finalized on Wednesday.


To hear the full story, click the audio labelled: Comox Valley voters approve tax increase to help the homeless

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