The question of affordable housing is forefront in Williams Lake because city council is requesting that all 39 units in the new BC Housing complex nearing construction be subsidized. Angie Mindus photo

The question of affordable housing is forefront in Williams Lake because city council is requesting that all 39 units in the new BC Housing complex nearing construction be subsidized. Angie Mindus photo

Province responds, City demands answers on affordable housing unit costs

Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing gives statement to Tribune

As work continues Wednesday morning, Sept. 18, to complete a new, much-needed affordable housing complex in Williams Lake, politicians and residents are questioning why the majority of the low-income units will rent for as much as $800 and $925 a month, plus utilities.

Council Scott Nelson raised the issue Tuesday morning calling on the Premier and Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing to keep all 39 units in the building as low-cost subsidized housing as it was first intended, considering the lakecity continues to facing an affordable housing crisis.

Read more: Williams Lake city council wants new BC Housing units on Second Avenue North all subsidized units

Nelson brought the issue to the rest of council during the regular meeting Tuesday evening and received full endorsement.

“The province does not have the right or the authority to turn it into market rents because they signed an agreement which is subject to the zoning which is on title,” Nelson said, referring to a move by BC Housing to try and recoup construction costs by offering higher rates than council expected.

Monthly rental rates for the project as it stands now be as follows: Three studio units at the provincial shelter rate of $375 a month, five one-bedroom units at $500 a month – low-income units, 27 one-bedroom units at $800 a month and three two-bedroom units at $925/month. These figures were provided by a spokesperson for the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing Wednesday, Sept. 18.

A three-bedroom Community Living B.C. (CLBC) unit will consist of two accessible units for people with disabilities and one caregiver unit. CLBC will pay the monthly rent of $1,600.

Nelson said those ‘affordable’ rental rates show a disconnect between BC Housing and the North.

“The $800 they want is a new high for Williams Lake. Where they get these numbers from is Vancouver. They have to remember this is Williams Lake. It’s a clear example they are not paying attention to what’s happening in smaller communities. The province has a fiduciary responsibility to look after homeless people. They committed 39 units to Williams Lake, they are going to have to bloody well deliver on that.”

Council, including the Mayor, are especially upset over the deal, as was the talk at the council meeting Tuesday night, because they went out on a limb to approve a much lower requirement for parking space in the area in order to support the project for low income housing.

Nelson provided copies of the original letter from Craven/Huston/Powers/Architects to the City, dated May 16, 2017, which stated the rationale for a reduction in the required number of parking stall for a building of that size, from 80 to 31 stalls.

“The project typography is subsidized housing in partnership with BC Housing. As with most other BC Housing developments, the actual parking needs for subsidized housing is greatly reduced as compared to market condominiums, as a large portion of the tenants will not have access to private vehicles, but will rely on other transportation methods,” the letter stated.

Nelson said he feels like council was misled.

“We needed the affordable housing in the downtown core, that’s why we supported the reduction,” Nelson said.

For their part, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing maintains all 39 units will be subsidized housing.

“All of the units will be at or below the 2017 Housing Income Limits (HILs) for Williams Lake, except for one three-bedroom unit, which will be a specialized Community Living BC (CLBC) unit. Housing Income Limits represent the income required to pay the average market rent for an appropriately sized unit in the private market,” a ministry spokesperson noted Wednesday in response to the uproar created by Nelson..

In July 2019, the operator of the new building, Williams Lake Association for Community Living, updated the rental situation when they announced the Provincial Rental Housing Corporation-owned building’s construction was on time and would be ready for occupancy on Dec. 1.

The board announced there would be eight subsidized units for people affected by intellectual disabilities or mental health issues and the remaining 31 units would be market rentals — with one bedroom renting for $800 per month plus utilities and two bedrooms renting for $925 per month plus utilities.

At the time, Ian McLaughlin, executive director of Williams Lake Association for Community Living, said he was surprised by the cost of the market rentals and the household income threshold for eligibility, noting $71,200 is not a low to moderate income in Williams Lake.

Read more: New housing on First Avenue scheduled for occupancy Dec. 1

On Tuesday, Coun. Scott Nelson said the project was $4 million over budget, however, the ministry said Wednesday the project is within budget.

“The Province, through BC Housing, is providing a grant of $8 million through the Affordable Rental Housing Program,” the ministry spokesperson said. “This program funds housing for low-to-moderate income renters, seniors and adults with mental health challenges or developmental disabilities.”

During the council meeting Tuesday, council also unanimously approved requesting a meeting with the Premier and the Minister of Housing at the Union of B.C. Municipalities Annual Convention taking place next week in Vancouver to address the issue.

CAO Milo MacDonald said after the conversation with the Premier and Minister of Housing, staff will explore legal options and advise mayor and council.

Read more: New housing on First Avenue scheduled for occupancy on Dec. 1

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A dose of COVID-19 vaccine is prepared at a vaccination clinic in Montreal’s Olympic Stadium on Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
39 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health region

The total number of cases in the region since the pandemic began is now at 7,334

Members of the Tl’etinqox First Nations are awaiting word of when they will receive their second dose. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
‘We need the second round’: Tl’etinqox Chief Joe Alphonse questions vaccine roll-out

It’s been 42 days since Tl’etinqox First Nation members received their first dose of Moderna

A drive-thru restaurant and beer and wine store is being proposed by Broadway Landco Management Ltd. for the former Chemo RV site at 1704 Broadway Ave. South. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Drive-thru restaurant, beer and wine store proposed for Williams Lake

Owners of property at 1704 Broadway Ave. South have applied for a zoning amendment

Avalanche Canada has issued a special avalanche warning for the Cariboo Mountains effective through the weekend. (Wes Gregg photo)
The city of Williams Lake has received provincial funding for a proposed boardwalk connecting the RC Cotton Trail to the River Valley Recreational Trail. (City of Williams Lake rough visualization of the proposal)
$550,000 provincial funding announced for Williams Lake boardwalk trail

The boardwalk will connect the new RC Cotton Trail to the river valley

Dr. Bonnie Henry leaves the podium after talking about the next steps in B.C.’s COVID-19 Immunization Plan during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, January 22, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
COVID: 589 new cases in B.C., and 7 new deaths

No new outbreaks being reported Feb. 26

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Staff from the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, passersby, RCMP and Nanaimo Fire Rescue carried a sick 300-kilogram steller sea lion up the steep bluff at Invermere Beach in north Nanaimo in an attempt to save the animal’s life Thursday. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Rescue Centre)
300-kilogram sea lion muscled up from B.C. beach in rescue attempt

Animal dies despite efforts of Nanaimo marine mammal rescue team, emergency personnel and bystanders

Gina Adams as she works on her latest piece titled ‘Undying Love’. (Submitted photo)
‘Toothless’ the kitty inspires B.C. wood carver to break out the chainsaw

Inspired by plight of a toothless cat, Gina Adams offers proceeds from her artwork to help animals

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson presents bill to delay B.C.’s budget as late as April 30, and allow further spending before that, B.C. legislature, Dec. 8, 2020. (Hansard TV)
How big is B.C.’s COVID-19 deficit? We’ll find out April 20

More borrowing expected as pandemic enters second year

The first of 11 Dash 8 Q400 aircraft's have arrived in Abbotsford. Conair Group Inc. will soon transform them into firefighting airtankers. (Submitted)
Abbotsford’s Conair begins airtanker transformation

Aerial firefighting company creating Q400AT airtanker in advance of local forest fire season

The Canada Revenue Agency says there were 32 tax fraud convictions across the country between April 2019 and March 2020. (Pixabay)
Vancouver man sentenced to 29 months, fined $645K for tax evasion, forgery

Michael Sholz reportedly forged documents to support ineligible tax credits linked to homeownership

Then-Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson looks on as MLA Shirley Bond answers questions during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria. (Chad Hipolito / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
B.C. Liberal party to choose next leader in February 2022

Candidates have until Nov. 30 to declare whether they are running

After nearly 10 months of investigations, Mounties have made an arrest in the tripping of an elderly woman in Burnaby this past April. (RCMP handout)
VIDEO: Mounties charge suspect for tripping elderly woman near Metrotown in April

32-year-old Hayun Song is accused of causing bodily harm to an 84-year-old using her walker

Most Read