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Milne: Affordable housing might require OCP changes

Milne: Affordable housing might require OCP changes

milne column headAccess to adequate and affordable housing is a challenge for a growing number of BC residents, including many on the Sunshine Coast.  Sechelt residents have been asking how our community can address this.

Like so many issues in Canada, housing is an overlapping multijurisdictional issue. However, the Province is primarily responsible and has funding for providing public housing units.  Local governments, like Sechelt, have a role to play to help private developers create a supply of housing options available for residents at different points on the income scale.  We are responsible for land use policy and community planning legislation that regulates developments.  Our Zoning, Official Community Plan and Development Servicing Standards bylaws, which have been developed in consultation with our residents, lay out the details of ‘what can go where’.  These bylaws exist to support continuity in development and in the way proposals are considered.  Variation from the bylaws can be considered, especially when proposals offer valued improvements, such as infrastructure, or amenities like affordable housing contributions.  To vary from these bylaws requires public consideration of the pros and the cons of straying from our community’s agreed to plans.  Recent developments where Sechelt worked with proponents to make allowances to create affordable housing units include Oracle Properties and Habitat for Humanity’s Sunshine Coast Village.

Providing shelter for those without housing or the means to provide stable housing for themselves is a complex matter. Social care and shelter for those in need, rests with the Provincial government – BC Housing, Vancouver Coastal Health and several Provincial Ministries have direct roles to play. Municipalities get involved as the need is immediate and directly impacts community life. The current situation in Sechelt illustrates this well.

BC Housing proposed a 40 bed temporary shelter for Ebbtide Street on a District owned property not zoned for the proposed use.  The District requested BC Housing conduct public information and input sessions to make residents aware of, and to consider residents views on, the potential project.  Those community meetings made it clear that this was not an ideal site nor were there any ‘ideal’ alternatives.

To date, no application for a change of  use or development of the Ebbtide Street property, or any other property, has been filed with the District.  As we do not have an application to base an assessment on, we cannot comment further, except to commit to follow our existing application consideration process, which as in the case of a change in use of any property, will include a public review process.

A shelter, to provide accommodations for those in our community without housing, is needed. The District will do what we can, within our authority and on behalf of our community, to help meet this need.  Council will do this by working within our existing Plans and Zoning requirements and by providing all residents with an opportunity to have their views considered in any decision.

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