Councillors in Gibsons are recommending the preferred site for an affordable rental housing project be changed to 571 Shaw Road, a property that was, until early last year, being considered for the Trellis Seniors Services long-term care facility.
The Town had been focusing on land it owns along Charman Creek, between the foot of Shaw Road in Upper Gibsons and Stewart Road in Lower Gibsons, for a project to be built and managed by the Sunshine Coast Affordable Housing Society.
A report from the planning department brought forward at the Jan. 8 committee of the whole meeting suggested abandoning the Charman site for the 40-unit complex, in part because of opposition from some in the community.
As well as some negative feedback at open houses, council was presented with a 200-signature petition last October from people calling on the Town to leave the Charman Creek Lands as natural forest.
“Affordable housing is still the priority here, regardless of the location,” Mayor Bill Beamish said, adding that he was mindful of the petition. “The 571 Shaw Road site was always the first choice of council prior to the Trellis option being presented.”
Using the Shaw Road lot for the project would mean changing a covenant on the land to include a provision for non-profit affordable housing. There would also have to be a rezoning and OCP amendment.
The planning department has proposed leasing only a portion of the property to the Sunshine Coast Affordable Housing Society, which has said it’s willing to allocate some of the units as “seniors’ housing.”
The rest of the property would be held by the Town for a development such as a long-term care facility and a park. Town staff pointed out that the proposed footprint of the housing project would be only about two acres of the four-acre site.
Council was unanimous in supporting the move, but Coun. David Croal also suggested looking at ways to allow more density so additional units could be built. “I think we have to take advantage of the opportunity for building affordable housing and get as much affordable housing [as we can] out of the commitment to build affordable housing on this location,” he said.
The only point of contention was around future planning for the Charman Lands. Coun. Stafford Lumley said he wanted the committee recommendation to specify that site should still be considered for affordable housing in the future.
Matt Thomson, a consultant with the Housing Society, said they’d appreciate any efforts by the Town to keep exploring additional sites.
“Forty or even 60 units on the land won’t address the current crisis let alone the future one,” he said. “We appreciate the commitment from the Town to keep exploring future sites and future opportunities and whether that’s Charman or another site, we remain committed to the partnership that we’ve started with the Town.”
The Town has provided about $17,000 in funding for planning and a letter of support for the Society’s applications to Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation and BC Housing for major funding.