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HOUSING CRISIS: Penticton considering new pilot program for affordable housing

As communities throughout the Thompson-Okanagan region struggle to get home built in the midst of a housing crisis, Penticton is considering a pilot project to help non-profits fund new affordable housing.

The proposed pilot program would allow for non-profits to access money from the city’s Affordable Housing Amenity Reserve to get pre-development work done which would give the projects a better chance at getting grants from other levels of government.

“We know the need for affordable housing is growing,” the city’s housing and policy initiatives manager Steven Collyer said in a press release.

The program would start out with $100,000 from the reserve over the next year. The housing reserve comes from money collected from developers for the city to pay for amenities related to development projects and it had a balance of $260,000 as of December 2023. 

City council will make a decision about the program at its meeting on Tuesday, March 5.

“This innovative pilot project would provide a way for us to partner with non-profits to unlock the potential for new housing, access senior government funding, and help meet council’s priority of attainable and accessible housing,” Collyer said.

READ MORE: Kelowna plans to hand over city land in exchange for affordable housing

There's currently a backlog of 162 people who need non-market housing in Penticton, and the city needs 172 to 286 new subsidized housing units by 2031, according to the city’s 2023 housing needs assessment.

“One of the challenges we’ve heard from groups like 100 More Homes is that when applying for capital grants they need to ensure the projects are shovel ready and that the architectural plans are in place to allow for immediate construction,” city social development specialist Jamie Lloyd-Smith said in the release.

City staff said in its recommendations to council that this strategy has already worked in the past.

In 2021, city council used funds from the housing reserve to pay for the pre-development work for the 2509 South Main St. project turning the land where the Shielings Motel was into a 56-unit apartment development. The reserve funds paid for an architect to produce concept plans for the project which made it possible to apply for a grant from BC Housing.

The pilot program would allow non-profits to do the same thing, get the ball rolling so they can get the grants needed for new affordable housing.

“We’re expecting more funding opportunities from senior levels of government this year, and funders are increasingly looking for projects that demonstrate strong partnerships. This pilot would allow our non-profits to be in a much stronger position to receive funding and build the needed housing,” Lloyd-Smith said.

— This story was updated at 2:10 p.m. on March 1, 2024, to correct an error in the lede saying the money came from property taxes.

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