Sechelt’s Housing Advisory Committee discussed the use of funds available to that municipality as well as other Coast jurisdictions at its March 11 meeting.
Mayor Darnelda Siegers, who was acting chair for the meeting, advised the five other committee members in attendance that Coast local governments were eligible for a total of $1.3 million in Strengthening Communities’ Services (SCS) grants. Sechelt is eligible to receive up to $450,000 from that program, which is funded by the federal and provincial governments. The remainder would be available if the SCRD, Gibsons and the Sechelt First Nation agreed to sign on to such an application and not request funding under that program for other purposes. The deadline for grant SCS applications is April 16.
At the meeting, there was general agreement for the committee to explore a potential application to SCS to move forward under the recently released “Call to Action” on addressing urgent housing needs. That document was developed following a March 1 meeting of groups interested in working on immediate solutions to what it identified as an “affordable housing crisis” in the area.
Siegers was tasked with seeking an agreement for a joint SCS application from the leadership of Sechelt’s neighbouring local governments.
She let the committee know that the SCRD was also set to receive about $86,000 raised through two years of Municipal Regional District Tax (MRDT). Those funds were collected by Sunshine Coast Tourism (SCT). Siegers, one of two Sechelt representatives on the SCRD board, said the regional district has no plan for the money and does not have a “function” where the funds can be deposited.
The MRDT is a two percent tax added to the cost of a hotel and other short-term accommodation stays in the area. They are collected to fund tourism marketing, programs, and projects. SCT agreed to use the money to fund efforts related to workforce housing. The lack of affordable accommodation for staff has been identified as a major difficulty for businesses in the Coast’s tourism sector.
Another potential source of dollars for housing-related projects that Siegers told the committee may be available is the COVID-19 safe restart funding. Those grants were provided to local governments by the province in late 2020.
Under the “Call to Action,” the committee and others at the March 1 meeting formed several working groups. Each is addressing a discussion area. These include the potential establishment of a Coast housing coordinator, development of rental incentive programs, and addressing barriers to securing rental accommodations.
The leaders of those sub-groups are slated to meet on March 22. That event may also be an opportunity for further discussion of an SCS grant application and use of MRDT money.
The Local has had difficulty confirming agenda topics to date. Meeting agendas have not been made available in advance for public review.
The advisory committee has plans to invite all involved in the March 1 meeting as well as others that may be interested in joining the discussions to a follow-up meeting on April 19. Sechelt funded facilitation of the original meeting with up to $1,500 from its COVID-19 restart money. Only $1,000 was spent. Siegers said that the remainder was available to support the follow-up meeting. Connie Jordison