Rather than the 104 units the Lions Housing Society first proposed, Sechelt council has granted its approval to reduce its project to 94 units.
At the Nov. 16 council meeting, staff brought forward a recommended amendment to the covenant signed by the Lions Housing Society in 2019 for the Greenecourt project. The covenant on the property requires a minimum of 100 units be built at 5803 Medusa Street, but the society is asking Sechelt to reduce the number of units from 104 to 94, “due to funding allowance from BC Housing.” It would remove one floor of housing from the project after “higher than anticipated construction costs and funding shortfalls required re-evaluation of the scope of the project.”
According to the staff report, removing the clause will not include a new mandatory number of units. “A risk with this option is that the proponent could potentially reduce the number of units substantially below the current minimum of 100 and proposed revision of 94 units. Staff believe the Sunshine Coast Lions Housing Society and BC Housing are trying to achieve the greatest number of units possible and the risk of substantial reductions is low,” the agenda report stated. Not allowing the requested adjustment, staff warned, could put the project at risk.
After giving his support for the project, citing the urgent need for housing, Coun. Darren Inkster asked about the rationale behind the original covenant. Mayor John Henderson said that’s what the applicant requested at the time.
“The land has sat vacant for number of years, so whatever we can do to facilitate the final building [should be done],” Inkster said.
Coun. Dianne McLauchlan spoke in favour of keeping the project at 104 units, and raised a concern about the eligibility and affordability of the units — the number of units offered for low-income versus moderate-income. The agreement states the dwelling must all be used as rentals, and defines affordable rental housing as a minimum of 70 per cent of the units will be for rent geared to income / deep subsidy tenants (as per BC Housing standards) and a maximum of 30 per cent of the occupancy is moderate-income / affordable market rent.
“To me, it's not providing the amount of I think really truly affordable housing that is really needed by the community that, I think, most residents assume is what that project is all about. We can't change the past but we can stick with what is on the books and so I would not support reducing the number of units,” McLauchlan said.
She also brought up guaranteed water and sewage for a large project as a concern, saying, “if it's delayed a bit while we can get some water, I don’t see it as a bad thing… we’ve been waiting a long time already, believe me.”
Coun. Donna Bell asked whether the society had enough funds to proceed with 94 units, which staff confirmed.
Another councillor, Brenda Rowe, spoke up in favour of supporting the project and reiterated the risk of the project failing. “I just want to point out that nothing has happened in the last four years because they needed to already go after more funding, and that took years of advocacy to get the funding that they just recently received to be able to move ahead at all with this project. So if we were to delay this again, it'll be coming back to us because in two years when they’ve got some funding, and we'll be looking at building 75 instead of 94 because the costs will have increased.”
McLauchlan cast the only vote in opposition to the change.