The Sunshine Coast Housing Committee has come a long way in its first year, taking the initial steps to establish a year-round homeless shelter and working to create more affordable housing options on the Coast.
Housing committee coordinator Matt Thomson reported to Sechelt council on Dec. 4 outlining the work his group has done to date.
“Over the past year, I have worked with Van-couver Coastal Health, SCACL [Sunshine Coast Association for Community Living], the Claytons family, St. Hilda’s Anglican Church, the Lions Club and the Salvation Army to develop a plan for a permanent housing shelter,” Thomson said, noting the committee is an undertaking of the Sunshine Coast Homeless Advisory Committee (SHAC).
“The Clayton family has offered two acres of land and received a seed funding grant. That seed funding is worth $20,000 and will allow us to assess the feasibility essentially of developing a permanent homeless shelter. We feel really hopeful about this, and those funds will be used to hire a development consultant to walk us through the process as well as identify the long-term funding options.”
He said that while the seed funding won’t bring the project to completion, it will put the committee in a good position for the future.
“Having seed funding like this allows us to get all our ducks in a row, and now if there are any new announcements or opportunities to access funding, then we’ve got all the pieces in place,” he said.
On the affordable housing front Thomson said the housing committee has been able to secure a “little bit of funding” from Sunshine Coast Community Futures to explore partnerships that could result in new affordable housing projects.
“So the goal of that process we’ll work through is basically to see if there are ways that we can partner to develop long-term strategies for affordable housing on the Sunshine Coast,” Thomson said. “This would lead to the actual development of a pilot project. Maybe not quite next year, but certainly in the third year of the committee we would see breaking ground.”
Thomson said he had some “very positive conversations” with the Sunshine Coast Credit Union as well about the effort.
“They have said they’re interested in providing development financing, possibly mortgage financing for what would be an affordable ownership model of affordable housing and that would be governed by a community land trust, which is a model that’s quite popular in the United States and would act as what’s called an equity partner in encouraging affordable ownership,” Thomson said.
“So that land trust owns the land underneath a unit and the family or a single owner owns the unit on top of it. So it’s a great way of getting new owners into the market. It’s a great way of providing that down payment that’s often a barrier for young families or others entering the housing market, and it allows for a sort of shared risk.
Councillors were pleased to hear about the accomplishments; however, Mayor John Henderson asked if their work was duplicating anything Habitat for Humanity had underway.
“I met with their board to ensure that we’re not. I don’t want to step on any toes because they’ve been doing their work on the Sunshine Coast for quite a long time. What we’ve come to is the work that we do will probably contribute to folks who are interested in a Habitat house but are maybe slightly above their income requirements,” Thomson said. “So we’d be sort of going for the step up from that, and they’ve expressed an interest in maybe sharing some names of folks from their list.”