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Affordable housing key to homeless problem

This Glenfair housing complex is one of the senior housing properties offering affordable rent.
June 20, 2013 - 11:03 AM

KAMLOOPS – A plan to end homelessness in Kamloops by 2015 is an attainable goal if affordable housing continues to be focused on by council and community partners, an action plan coordinator says.

The 2013 homelessness summary shows a need for 2,222 affordable housing units, from temporary and subsidized housing to private rental and entry level ownership.

“Housing first is a priority, it will provide stability,” says Kamloops Homelessness Action Plan coordinator Tangie Genshorek.

Affordable housing and transitional housing are key components to the plan to end homelessness. City councillors agree they need to put money into a rent bank program run by Kamloops Elizabeth Fry Society but they're looking at incentives to homebuilders and landlords to provide more affordable housing options.

“We need quite a bit of housing,” social and community development supervisor Jennifer Casorso told council Tuesday morning in explaining the different steps council can take with the affordable housing reserve fund.

She suggested providing $15,000 to the rent bank annually and the possibility of additional tax incentives, loans and programs for developers and landlords for the construction and renovation of affordable housing units.

Currently the rent bank offers loans to working families that have run into a financial emergency and need help with their rent or utilities. The money is paid directly to the landlord or utility company and the loan is repayable over two years. Applicants are interviewed beforehand to ensure they can afford to pay back the loan and those who do not qualify for loans are still offered financial literacy aid. More funding for the rent bank would help provide loans to more people.

Though council was on board with providing funding to the rent bank, many councillors wondered about a small renovation assistance program. Mayor Peter Milobar voiced concerns over the amount needed for the program, noting the fund could prove to not be sustainable.

“In theory they should be able to go to banks for renos. I get where you're going with it, but I need to see more work on renovations. How do we evolve that? Eligibility criteria?” Milobar wondered.

As a society focused on housing and community justice, the Elizabeth Fry Society already runs three housing complexes and made transitional housing for women and their children a priority since 2008. With more than $100,000 raised so far the society is finalizing a business case and looking at options for land.

“We're hoping to have access to property rezoned by the city a couple years ago,” executive director Louise Richards says, “we've been in touch with the city and B.C. Housing to come up with a process to have properties offered to non-profits in Kamloops. Once that is in place then we would be in a position to respond to requisitions for proposals.”

Richards says she hopes the city will be able to move the process forward by making the properties available and in offering incentives to developers. While she acknowledges that council seems to understand the need for affordable housing she still hopes they will take additional steps soon.

The project, which would provide 19 units and comes at an estimated cost of $5 million, has garnered a lot of interest and support from the community but until the business plan is in place and property secured, the society is having a hard time getting financial commitments.

“We keep going in this direction because on an almost daily basis this need comes to our attention. It's clear if there were places where there was support those issues would be addressed and the family could stay together. I don't have any doubt we'll be successful.” Richards says.

To contact a reporter for this story, email, call (250) 819-3723 or tweet @JennStahn.

News from © iNFOnews, 2013

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