CRD angling for bigger share of federal Rapid Housing fund

The Capital Regional District will ask for more than its $13.1-million share of a federal housing fund in hopes that other cities leave some of their money on the table unused, board chairman Colin Plant confirmed Wednesday.

Prime Minister announced last month that 15 metropolitan areas — including the CRD — will receive half of a new $1-billion Rapid Housing Initiative aimed at creating 3,000 affordable housing units across the country.

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The cities have until Nov. 27 to submit their plans for the money.

Plant said the federal government has made clear that if some cities fail to submit a proposal, their money will be redistributed.

He said the CRD will meet the deadline and expects to ask for more than in was allotted in hopes of grabbing any leftover cash to deal with pressing homelessness issues. A staff report says up to 350 people are currently sheltering outdoors during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Certainly, we’re going to be aggressive,” Plant said. “We have an acute problem here. Everybody knows that, and there are some dollars available. Why wouldn’t we ask for more?

“We want to solve this issue to the best of our ability.”

He said the district will work with B.C. Housing as well to make sure that services are in place to support people once they move into new housing units.

“We can’t just build and buy,” he said. “We also have to support. “

The CRD board gave staff the green light Wednesday to negotiate a deal with the federal government.

Plant said more details will be released once that agreement is finalized.

Each city is expected to use its money to create a minimum of 52 units of permanent housing within 12 months, possibly by converting a motel to residences or purchasing land to build modular housing.

“Everything’s on the table,” Plant said, noting the CRD put out a call to its member municipalities and the private sector for project ideas.

Given the short time frame, he said “modular is likely the only way one can build those types of units short of transitioning an already existing building. So I think the reality is, if it’s going to be new, it is likely to be modular.”

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