Williams Lake city council hopes to acquire some Crown land between Westridge and the golf course adjacent to Highway 20.
“Tonight council made a recommendation, based on a recommendation from two cabinet ministers, to acquire additional land,” Coun. Scott Nelson said at the end of the regular council meeting Tuesday, Oct. 8.
On Wednesday, Nelson told the Tribune the City is trying to access and open up more land on the west side.”We would like to prioritize a secondary emergency access from the west side to the downtown core and we want to create opportunities for some predetermined, new affordable housing locations,” he said.
Nelson said city council has taken the position that if a major new highway is going to go from Dog Creek Road down onto the bottom side of Yorston Street it will be provincial partnership initiative.
“Out of the fires we recognized that people were looking for a secondary access to get through in case of emergencies. If Highway 20 is locked down because of any accidents or stuff like that people simply don’t have an alternative route from that northern side of Highway 20,” Nelson explained. “The land is adjacent to Highway 20.”
The City needs to continue to build in and up and acquiring the land is part of that plan, he added.
“It’s very exciting. We are quite pleased on it and have tipped the ministers of housing and highways that we are moving forward with it. We want to do it much sooner than later and wanted to formalize it by putting a resolution on the table. It is a major project for our community.”
It will create more access and more opportunities for housing, affordable housing, new real estate opportunities for commercial properties, he said.
The item wasn’t on the meeting’s agenda, but Nelson said he wanted to bring it up as a resolution by council.
“We’ve been working behind the scenes on this particular issue and we now decided we wanted to bring it out publicly to let the public know what we are trying to achieve.”
During the Union of BC Municipalities Convention held the last week of September in Vancouver, mayor and council met with the minister of municipal affairs and housing to protest the rates that will be charged for units in the BC Housing complex nearing completion on First Avenue North.
The majority of the units will have rents of $800 for a one-bedroom plus utilities and $925 for a two bedroom plus utilities, which is higher than council expected when it allowed the number of required parking spaces for the building to be reduced to less than half.
“It’s not the type of subsidy we assumed it was,” Mayor Walt Cobb said of what they heard in the meeting with the minister. “Their explanation was that their subsidy was the $8 million that they put into it. At Glen Arbor they subsidize each tenant on their rent, but that is not what they are looking for here. They are basically looking at market rents, which we told them wasn’t necessarily applicable to the Cariboo.”
Cobb said Williams Lake needs much more affordable housing and presently there are 45 people who desperately need places to live.
Nelson said council hasn’t changed its position.
“The units should be the $375 subsidized,” he said. “I echo the mayor in saying that today we probably have over 45 people that desperately need accommodation and who make less than $5,000 a year. There is a significant problem out there and we tried to reinforce that fact with the minister.”
If the the rents in the new place are not going to be reduced, then the government will need to build more affordable housing in the community, Nelson said.
“And we will make them sign a covenant that the rents will be $375,” he added.
This story was updated with the addition of the map and more information on the City’s intent.