Few of us like to see something go to waste, especially when potential exists to do so much good.
It was with that in mind a group of residents, led by Jan Mears, proposed to Oak Bay council that a municipally owned house – unused and uninhabited for several years – be refurbished with volunteer work and in-kind donations to provide housing for up to a year for Syrian refugee families arriving in Greater Victoria.
Families would pay an affordable rent while they get their bearings and set down roots in their new community.
While councillors have agreed in principle with the idea, some questions need to be answered before it can move forward.
Among council’s concerns is the commitment of a suitable lead agency to officially take on the initiative. Others voiced concerns over the temporary nature of the housing for refugee families.
The district purchased the property more than a decade ago for a potential park or parking lot near the village. It was a rental property until several years ago.
While its future remains on council’s to-do list, the short-term refugee housing proposal could do some good while council settles on a path forward. Not only would it support residents’ considerable demonstration of compassion and generosity we have witnessed, but it also would benefit the district by providing rental income – $900 a month has been suggested – and having someone live in an otherwise empty building.
The refugee sponsor groups are also committed to supporting the families during their transition once here, and part of that would likely include helping them find suitable long-term housing.
We agree Oak Bay must do its due diligence, especially when undertaking a new initiative, however we think this is an opportunity to make a real difference to those who have already lost so much.