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Oak Bay asked to consider fund to address homelessness

Victoria mayor asks other municipalities to establish housing trust fund

Victoria’s mayor is hoping Oak Bay will consider creating its own housing trust fund to address the issue of homelessness in the Capital Regional District. Victoria council sent a letter to the municipalities of Esquimalt, Oak Bay, North and Central Saanich, View Royal, Metchosin and Highlands encouraging them to establish a housing trust fund.

“Oak Bay pays about $60,000 into the regional housing trust fund. Certainly it is open for our council to consider our own trust fund,” said Oak Bay Mayor Nils Jensen. “My personal view though … is we get a bigger bang for our buck when we work together.”

A presentation by the Regional Housing Corporation highlighted the leverage bulk funding could create, turning $1 into the value of up to $12.

“Every dollar that we gave, could turn into $7 or as much as $12,” Jensen said.  “It’s much more effective. Even if we have a small local trust fund in Oak Bay we probably wouldn’t be in a position to fund any project of any size.”

It’s a sentiment echoed by Esquimalt, which contributes $37,000 annually to the $1.3-million fund.

“We are affordable within an unaffordable region,” said Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins. “We are affordable and at the end of the day, we are contributing to the CRD fund and that is all we need to do at this point.”

Currently, almost all municipalities pay into the district’s Regional Housing Trust Fund. Victoria is the only one that has its own fund specifically for affordable housing initiatives.

“It has been very effective,” said Mayor Lisa Helps. “It gets used up and replenished, so the money is not just sitting there.”

Helps said councils should look at homelessness as a regional issue.

“There’s a certain feeling that the capital regional trust fund might be the best body for regional housing and I agree with that, but we also need other people in the region to contribute to it,” she said. “It’s an incredibly effective tool for actually getting housing built.”

The letter from Victoria could appear at the next Oak Bay council meeting, scheduled for June 8 at 7:30 p.m. in council chambers, 2167 Oak Bay Ave.

– with files from Kendra Wong