British Columbia

Victoria mayor, councillors want $50M to end homelessness

Each household would pay roughly $11 per year.

City asking the Capital Regional District to borrow funds with loan to be supported by a regional levy

Victoria's mayor and two councillors want to build 367 units of housing to deal with the city's homeless problem. (Shutterstock)

A contribution of roughly $11 per household, for 15 years.

That is all it could take to eliminate homelessness in Victoria and the surrounding region, says Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps and two city councillors.

Helps and councillors Ben Isitt and Jeremy Loveday have submitted a motion to council suggesting the Capital Regional District borrow $50 million to build 367 housing units for the chronically homeless.

The number of proposed units is an estimate from the city's partner agencies of the amount of housing that is required.

The motion, which is to be debated by Victoria councillors on Thursday, Sept. 17, states that it would cost about $2 million a year to finance the borrowing, paid over 15 years through an annual levy of $11.18 per household in the CRD.

"I hope every resident...can really get behind this proposal because I think we have a plan that can really tackle this issue that has been holding our region back for some time," said Isitt.

The motion states the strategy's goal is to eliminate visible homelessness within the Capital Region by 2018.

Provincial, federal contributions

Isitt said the other municipalities and electoral districts in the CRD will be approached if the plan is first approved by Victoria city council.

The motion also proposes that Mayor Helps writes to the Prime Minister of Canada after the upcoming election to request a federal commitment toward the cost of the housing units — which could reduce or eliminate the need for a regional contribution.

Victoria city councillor Ben Isitt no longer wants tax payers to cover the costs of commemorative military events like Remembrance Day.

The plan also asks the province to commit to funding the housing units' annual operating costs.

"For many on the street there are a lot of issues that they grapple with, so a simple apartment isn't' really sufficient," Isitt said.

"You need staff available to provide what we call housing with supports, so that would be the request to the province."

The city of Victoria has made numerous efforts to tackle the issue of homelessness in the region. 

Earlier this year council considered setting up a permanent tent city in Topaz Park, which was met with stiff criticism.

Isitt said this project is feasible — even if it comes at a time when the city is involved in other large-scale projects, such as the new Johnson Street bridge and a potential sewage treatment plant.

"It sounds like a big sum of money, but if we're going to make those investments in our physical infrastructure, I think surely we can make them in our social infrastructure," Isitt said.

Advocacy group supports plan

Isitt's proposal is similar to a plan released earlier this year by the Coalition to End Homelessness.

Though the coalition's plan didn't include funding from the CRD, its head, Andrew Wynn-Williams says he supports the city's aggressive plan to ask for funding from all three levels of government.

"The city is saying, 'You know what? We don't want to wait'. In one way that will really put pressure on those two senior levels of government to step up to the plate."

To hear the full interview with councillor Ben Isitt listen to the audio labelled: Victoria city councillor on new homeless housing proposal

To hear the full interview with Andrew Wynn-Williams listen to the audio labelled: Advocacy group on Victoria city council's potential homeless housing plan.


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