Capital Regional District staff will need to work fast in the coming weeks to hit deadlines associated with at least $13 million in federal funding, being made available to house homeless individuals or those at risk of becoming homeless.
As part of its $1-billion Rapid Housing Initiative, the federal government informed the CRD in October that it had been allocated $13.056 million to help create a minimum of 52 units of new permanent housing aimed at vulnerable populations. That can come in the form of new modular housing, conversions or rehabilitation of existing residential or commercial spaces, or other new construction.
On Wednesday the CRD’s hospitals and housing committee unanimously authorized staff to negotiate and execute agreements with the government to ensure the funding is secured and used.
The money comes with a list of criteria that includes a deadline of Nov. 27 for the submission of an investment plan to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), outlining capital projects to be built in Greater Victoria.
Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps, who chairs the committee, put it succinctly before directors cast their votes:
“The criteria for this money is it has to be capital, so it has to build things,” she said. She also pointed out that if the CRD partners with a non-profit housing provider on a project, the CRD remains responsible for maintaining the federal initiative’s criteria for 20 years.
Kevin Lorette, general manager of planning and protective services, said municipalities were contacted and given a Nov. 9 deadline to let the CRD know of land available within their jurisdiction that is already zoned for housing.
Current estimates have approximately 350 people sheltering outdoors, an amount made higher by the fact COVID-19 is limiting numbers in the city’s regular indoor shelters. Many suffer from mental health issues and/or addictions and need additional supports. CRD chief administrative officer Bob Lapham said the plan is to build partnerships with service providers in parallel with the creation of housing.