Syrian housing suggestion stuck without a society

Third party needed to take helm of transitional refugee housing

The plan to rejuvenate the municipally owned house on Hampshire Road for refugee housing is essentially in a holding pattern.

Little has changed as council reverted to its March decision to support the project in principle and await a society or organization to take on the at-arms-length task of volunteer rejuvenation of the home and rental agreement.

The subject arose as Jan Mears took on the task of creating a proposal to have in-kind and volunteer work bring the home back to living standards and use the space as an affordable transitional housing for Syrian refugee families for two years.

She garnered huge community support – also reflected in a handful of letters to council May 9. Council voiced its support but stuck to the March direction that they need a society or organization to keep volunteer work, leasing and maintenance at arms length from the district.

That’s the rub, says Mears.

“Nobody can step in between the tenants and the owner of a property. All we can do as a community group is come in and get the house ready,” said Mears, who missed the meeting because of ferry traffic on the Mainland.

Since March, Mears has explored potential partnerships with several groups including HeroWork, Habitat for Humanity, the Community Association of Oak Bay and various faith groups in the community, and found none was in a position to take the lead.

“The reason is clear. The house is owned by the municipality and as such, the municipality needs to take the lead on the project, provide insurance and liability coverage, charitable tax status and banking support,” Mears wrote in her letter to council.

Her letter outlined a plan that included support from the municipality including to: support the request from the community to make the house available for transition housing for refugee families for two years; provide leadership in partnership with other community partners such as Friends of Hampshire House; provide direction to the property manager of other municipally owned rental properties such as Tod House; and work with the newly formed Friends of Hampshire House to enable the renovations, updating and subsequent lease arrangements with a tenant.

She suggested the Friends of Hampshire House would provide a work plan and regular progress updates, fundraising, in-kind donations and and co-ordinate volunteer labour.

Coun. Eric Zhelka made the motion to support the project as outlined in the letter. “I’m assuming it’s going to happen,” Zhelka said of a formalized group. “If we need to make it legal, let’s make it legal.”

“The community is eager to support this project; we need to give staff the signal to iron out some of the issues,” said Coun. Tara Ney.

Coun. Hazel Braithwaite likened moving the project forward without an organization, with the assumption it will happen, to being “almost pregnant.”

“I think we need to have that viable group come forward,” she said.

Coun. Michelle Kirby questioned whether council needed to move the proposal to its strategic plan, bumping something else. However, Coun. Tom Croft noted the use of the Hampshire property is on the priorities list.

Jensen suggested council adopt in principle and have it come back when an organization is formalized, however that was a direction already given by council in March. Those March instructions stand, as after some discussion of amendments, but no alterations, Zhelka’s motion was soundly defeated.

“I have presented a plan, a motion was put forward, the plan was defeated. Until we see the minutes from the discussion, we don’t know what door might be open,” Mears said. “Nobody wants to be signing the lease that should be signed with the municipality and their tenant.”

Staff stuck to its legal recommendations that a third-party would be optimal for such items as volunteer organization, recognition of in-kind donations and labour and overseeing a lease and care of transitional tenants.

“A society would create a more commonly used arrangement,” said Maura Jones, acting director of corporate services during the May 9 meeting.

Staff also provided one beam of light on the project. A legal team offered pro bono work should a society form to take the lead on the proposed project for refugee housing at the Hampshire Road house.

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Coroner Andy Watson confirmed the death of a man in Chemainus Monday night.
Death at Victoria encampment for people who are homeless deemed not suspicious

BC Coroners Service now investigating death at Royal Athletic Park Jan. 23

Learning tools from the Garth Homer Society’s LifeStreams program have gone online. (Facebook/Garth Homer Society)
Online platform launched for Greater Victoria adults with developmental disabilities

Platform includes programs, events, activities and COVID-19 resources

Jerry Dyck plans to purchase a new RV to drive across Canada in, once it’s safe to travel again. (Courtesy BCLC)
Victoria man plans post-pandemic cross-Canada RV trip after $2M lottery win

Retired electrician bought the winning ticket in Duncan

Crews with Discovery Channel film as an Aggressive Towing driver moves a Grumman S2F Tracker aircraft around a 90-degree turn from its compound and onto the road on Saturday, Jan. 23, 2021. It was the “most difficult” part of the move for the airplane, one organizer said. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: Vintage military plane gets towed from Chilliwack to Greater Victoria

Grumman CP-121 Tracker’s eventual home the British Columbia Aviation Museum on Vancouver Island

The Pacific Rim National Park Reserve is urging visitors to stay on designated trails after a hiker became injured in an unsanctioned area last week. (Westerly file photo)
Injured hiker rescued in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve

“Safety is everyone’s responsibility.”

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talk about the next steps in B.C.’s COVID-19 Immunization Plan during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, January 22, 2021. Two more cases of the COVID-19 strain first identified in South Africa have been diagnosed in British Columbia, bringing the total to three as of Jan. 16.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. now has three cases of South African COVID-19 variant, six of U.K. strain

Both variants are thought to spread faster than earlier strains

Rodney and Ekaterina Baker in an undated photo from social media. The couple has been ticketed and charged under the Yukon’s <em>Civil Emergency Measures Act</em> for breaking isolation requirements in order to sneak into a vaccine clinic and receive Moderna vaccine doses in Beaver Creek. (Facebook/Submitted)
Great Canadian Gaming CEO resigns after being accused of sneaking into Yukon for vaccine

Rod Baker and Ekaterina Baker were charged with two CEMA violations each

Police discovered a makeshift nightclub in a Vancouver apartment on Jan. 23, 2021, and say it wasn’t the first time this month officers have been called to the unit over social gathering concerns. (Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
Doorman of makeshift ‘booze-can’ in Vancouver apartment fined; police look to court order

This marks the fourth complaint about social gatherings inside the apartment in January

Local musician and artist Daisy Melville created a watercolour portrait of U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders from the recent American inauguration, and with help from her mom, is now selling t-shirts and more with funds going to the Comox Valley Food Bank. Image submitted
Island artist turns Sanders inauguration meme into art for good

All proceeds from the sale of shirts, sweaters and more will go to the Comox Valley Food Bank

A Kelowna couple welcomed their Nooner baby in December. (Flytographer)
Kelowna couple welcomes baby girl from Hotel Zed Nooner campaign

Nicole and Alex will now have 18 years of free stays at the hotel

Kyrell Sopotyk was drafted by the Kamloops Blazers in 2016 and played two seasons with the Western Hockey League club. (Photograph By ALLEN DOUGLAS/KTW)
Kamloops Blazer paralyzed in snowboarding accident sparks fundraiser for family

As of Jan. 24, more than $68,000 had been raised to help Kamloops Blazers’ forward Kyrell Sopotyk

(Pixhere photo)
B.C. dentists argue for COVID-19 vaccine priority after ‘disappointing’ exclusion from plan

Vaccines are essential for dentists as patients cannot wear masks during treatment, argues BCDA

Most Read