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housing proposals

Two months after its call for proposals for affordable housing projects closed the municipality has drawn up a point system to evaluate the proposals and is scheduling an open house where the projects can be reviewed by the public. But it took an outburst by Councillor Kristi Wells at Monday’s Committee of the Whole meeting to get council and planning staff to see there was some urgency in evaluating the proposals if there is any chance of having any of them built by next winter. "We have to come clean with the community. Either we get together as a team and push some of these forward so we have some housing for next fall or else we do a wholesale, six-month study to evaluate all aspects," Wells said in response to a suggestion that the municipality hasn’t completed an employee-needs assessment or studied the suitability of various parcels of land for affordable housing. "I think a lot of hopes will be shattered — people have been counting on these 700 units by next fall," Wells continued. Councillor Ted Milner agreed and suggested a short list of the proposals should be drawn up and presented by council. But Councillor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden opposed any suggestion that the public process be cut short. "We heard throughout the campaign that people are frustrated by a lack of input (into the process)," Wilhelm-Morden said. "We need to set an evaluation criteria, but we need to do it very quickly. If we have to hire extra staff on contract, we do so, but I’m absolutely opposed to jumping steps. We heard that loud and clear in the election." Council is scheduling an open house for the public to make comments on the proposals and will take extra steps to try and publicize the meeting and give people the opportunity for input. Advertising will be done in papers and on radio in Vancouver and Whistler, a Web page is being set up and fax or phone hot lines may be available. Following the open house municipal staff will evaluate public input and present a short list of the proposals to council. Proposals that make the short list ill be required to provide more details, including environmental assessments. Twelve submissions were received by the Nov. 15 proposal call deadline, but two were eliminated by council Monday. The Spruce Grove/Rainbow Estates proposal for 88 single family market lots, and the Hillman proposal, have been rejected by municipal staff and council and won’t be considered further. The Spruce Grove/Rainbow Estates proposal incorrectly assumed 283 bed units were attached to the private school site at Spruce Grove. It was also a stipulation in the proposal call that no market bed units would be considered by council. The Hillman submission did not provide information for staff to proceed with an evaluation. The affordable housing proposals are in effect competing for some of the 1,700 bed units the municipality has made available for affordable housing projects. The 10 submissions being evaluated total more than 3,300 bed units. The municipality has also said it will allow only 700 affordable bed units to be built this year. Municipal staff have drawn up an evaluation matrix for the 10 projects that involves assigning points based on a number of objectives such as neighbourhood compatibility, environmental sensitivity, housing type and housing tenure. Milner questioned why staff’s report did not address the issue of subsidization, as he understood some proposals were expecting some of the housing fund, and why there was nothing in evaluation about sale or rental prices. Municipal planner Mike Purcell said affordability levels would be addressed in the second stage of the evaluation process, as would the issue of subsidies. Earlier this month the Whistler Valley Housing Society let council know it wanted to use all of the $6 million in the employee housing fund to secure land for rental accommodation.