Local officials are exploring the option of partnering with the B.C. government as part of a province-wide initiative to facilitate the construction of affordable housing for communities most in need.
The Liberals issued a call for Expressions of Interest (EOI) this month to join with municipalities, non-profit housing providers, community groups and the private sector to create affordable rental housing for low-to-moderate-income households across B.C.
"Certainly, it looks like it's a very interesting initiative and I'd like to get a little more detail about it," said Whistler Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden on Monday, April 18.
Marla Zucht, general manager of the Whistler Housing Authority (WHA), which has assisted over 4,200 residents to date find affordable housing locally, had only just heard of the provincial initiative and intends to learn more about it to see if the WHA is eligible for funding.
"The prospect of $355 million being invested by the province in affordable housing with the objective of creating more than 2,000 new rental housing units across British Columbia is very exciting," she wrote in an email.
The callout is part of the first year of Victoria's massive Provincial Investment in Affordable Housing program — the largest single affordable housing investment in B.C.'s history. The funding will be handed out over a five-year span, with $50 million earmarked for 2016-17.
"We can build healthier communities by making sure that people have access to secure and affordable rental housing," said housing minister Rich Coleman in a release. "Our record investment reflects a commitment to help those in greatest need throughout B.C. find a safe and affordable place to call home."
The EOI submissions will be considered based on the project's anticipated impact on the community's affordable rental housing need. Although Whistler has long struggled with housing availability — the current WHA rental waitlist is 490 people long — it's unclear whether the resort will be eligible for funding. According to the province, the program will provide affordable homes to those in greatest need, including low-income families and individuals, people at risk of homelessness, seniors and aboriginals.
"The criteria would be a bit of a challenge for us, that's for sure," noted Wilhelm-Morden.
Government assisted housing currently accounts for around six per cent of B.C.'s total housing stock. More than 102,500 households across B.C. accessed a range of provincial housing services in 2015.
The EOI package is available at www.merx.com/bch.