Candidates' Forum on Housing and Homelessness

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2018

What do you know about housing and homelessness in Nanaimo?

Nanaimo is experiencing similar challenges to every municipality in the Province – many people living on a low or fixed income and a shortage of affordable units. We have approximately 1000 units that are subsidized and 4000 people with permanent disabilities receiving $375 per month for shelter. There are seniors with no Canada pension that receive less than $1200 per month and 1 BR apartments even in affordable housing complexes are paying $600-700 per month for rent.

Much of our street homelessness problem stems from almost 20 years when no subsidized housing was built in a time of economic growth and ever-increasing housing cost. Even though in Vancouver thousands of units were built to help with the homeless population, the number of people homeless today is higher than it was 10 years ago. Nanaimo may be facing a similar future if we do not find a way to participate with the Province to develop more affordable housing.

Do you endorse the Affordable Housing Strategy and the Homelessness Plan?

I am in full support of the Affordable Housing strategy and I believe that the community consultation process that was used should become a model for how the community approaches other community concerns. The strategy provides an excellent blueprint to help to guide the City in the development of action plans to have an impact on all aspects of housing affordability.

While I generally support most of the programs and services presented in the Homeless Plan, it falls short by not making a strong statement about the need for subsidized housing. I also do not believe that the plan’s proposal to end homelessness in 10 years is unrealistic and should be revisited.

Municipal Role in Housing

The City of Nanaimo has had an excellent history of supporting the development of Social Housing projects. Many of the existing social housing projects have been built on land provided by the City of Nanaimo, usually in the form of long-term leases. However, as Nanaimo has grown, the availability of vacant, appropriate Municipal land is decreasing rapidly.

The city should continue to look for opportunities to make land available, continue to support the development of housing through reduced municipal costs, and continue to work to partner with Senior levels of Government to increase the number of affordable housing units available to our citizens.

In regard to the issue of Nimbyism, a greatly improved communications strategy with neighbourhoods is vital to this issue. I believe that most citizens of Nanaimo would be unable to identify the many social housing complexes in the community because good housing has almost no impact on the community at large while having a critical positive impact on the tenants that live in social housing. Making use of the existing social housing providers going forward rather than politicians would go a long way to reducing NIMBY reactions. A community process on new social housing complexes similar to the one used in the Nanaimo Affordable Housing Strategy which engaged the community in a way that ensured the active and positive engagement.

Zero homelessness in Nanaimo by 2028

As I said earlier, I do not believe this target is achievable. Because of the time involved in developing social housing for every 1 unit developed, 2 more people become homeless. Communities across Canada (except possibly Red Deer, Alberta) every political promise to end homelessness has failed. Of course, the City of Nanaimo needs to work diligently to try to assist the ongoing development of more social and affordable housing and reducing the numbers of homeless and reducing the impact of homelessness on the community needs to remain a high priority.

Candidate Debate Application Questions

Friday, September 28th, 2018

1) How would you describe the role you are seeking (mayor or councillor) and how do your skills, experience and qualifications prepare you to take on this serious and complex role?

In seeking a Council position, I will be entering into an important partnership with my fellow Council members, Municipal Staff and the Community. I can and will work diligently with council members to reach consensus on how to move forward on complex community issues. I will make the development of good communication with City Staff a priority and give respect to staff for their professional input. My focus on good community partnerships means that I will make a priority to connect with all the Neighbourhood Associations and participate actively in Open Houses/Townhall meetings on various topics where I promise to listen carefully and give serious consideration to all the neighbourhood’s concerns.

I bring years of professional experience to the job of City Councilor. My 35 years of social work in various positions in both the social/justice systems have taught me how to work well with diverse and sometimes challenging groups of people. It also taught me how to make challenging and unpopular decisions when they are necessary.

My experience as a front-line responder in child protection and as a Team Leader for Youth Protections has taught me the importance of listening and the importance of being respectful to everyone. I have also worked cooperatively with many of the First Nations on the Central and South Vancouver Island.

I believe that both my university training and professional experience gives me the analytical, prudent, and caring attitude necessary to seek a seat on City Council.

2) Outline the approaches and actions you think council should take to help foster a prosperous, vibrant, sustainable and diverse Nanaimo economy and community.

When considering the promotion and cultivation of a thriving, prosperous Nanaimo, there are several actions and approaches that can be taken:

(1) Continued support to the business community by improving communications with the Chamber of Commerce, Vancouver Island Real Estate Board, Nanaimo Homebuilders and other similar business associations.

(2) Consider more opportunities to consult with business owners in all areas of the City to listen and develop concrete action strategies to address local concerns.

(3) Continue to work with the Regional District to improve the Regional transportation plan with a view towards reducing traffic congestion and improving transit services.

(4) Formulate a motion directing each City Department to review their own operations and examine opportunities to reduce fossil fuel energy use. Build a timed action plan to move ahead on the Strategies outlined in the Nanaimo Affordable Housing Strategy and the Nanaimo Community Plan to End Homelessness that includes complete consultation with the whole community at large.

(5) Encourage the development of more local events and activities throughout the city, similar to the Thursday Night Market.

(6) Continue to improve and expand the local recycling opportunities to cover all aspects of handling garbage.

(7) Revisit the Transportation Plan to update a number of crucial issues and implement an Action Plan to move forward with other outstanding issues that directly affect the quality of life of Nanaimo’s citizens.

3) Describe your vision, approach and tactics for how you as a council member and council as a body should engage with its various partners, stakeholders and constituents.

When describing my vision, approach and tactics for public/private engagement, I see a collaboration of openness and respect between all parties.

I would make the excellent consultative model that was used in the development of the recent Affordable Housing Strategy the model for moving forward in ALL development in Nanaimo. The process included a steering committee that was truly representative of public and private housing providers, home builders, representatives from real estate and Vancouver Island University. Stakeholder consultations with Government, service providers and the private sector, as well as many public community consultations, were held where there was a genuine opportunity for input. Taking this inclusive approach led to the development of a thoroughly comprehensive plan that should provide a blueprint for Municipal action for the next decade.

True community consultation and transparency could have prevented some of the local controversies that have arisen over the last few years such as the Colliery Dam issue and the proposed housing projects for people experiencing homelessness.

I believe the City has not had a comprehensive communication strategy for several years and would encourage that one be developed with a focus on true community consultation.

4) Nanaimo Council is served and supported by a series of committees. How should these committees be structured, mandated and governed?

The Committees currently identified by City Council and filled with selected volunteers could be so much more valuable to Council than they are now.

As a sitting member of the Public Safety Committee for the City, I can see the value of Citizen input but do not feel that the potential of advisory committees is appreciated to the degree that it should.

I will work with my fellow Council members and existing Committee members to make the Committee system one that better serves the needs of the City and that puts more value on the input from those Committees.

I would also work to establish a process that would bring all the Committee members and Council Chairs together as a group to better understand the Municipal Committee structure, the joint purposes of the various committees, and how they might work hand-in-hand to make Nanaimo a more vibrant community.

Better communication of the role of Municipal staff in the committee structure will be important to improving the system and solidifying the relationship of Municipal staff with the various committees needs to be explored.

News Bulletin Questionnaire

Friday, September 28th, 2018

My name is Alexis Petersen. I am a retired social worker now volunteering with the Nanaimo Aboriginal Centre Board of Directors, Cat Nap Rescue, Nanaimo Emergency Social Services, City of Nanaimo Public Safety Committee. I have been a Colliery Dam Park Ambassador for 15 years.

I have a Bachelor of Social Work UBC 79 and a Master’s in Criminology SFU 95. I have worked in social welfare and justice institutions for 35 years in Bella Coola, Yukon and here on Vancouver Island. I have lived in Nanaimo for 16 years.

In discussions with the community, housing has consistently been the top priority mentioned. Not just the housing needed for marginalized people, but for young families and seniors. Another priority identified is the need to revisit the Transportation Plan, assess the progress and revisit priorities.

I would support community consultations based on the model used in the Affordable Housing Plan. It was inclusive, wide-ranging, involved all stakeholders and genuinely wanted to listen. This process could help identify the community’s priorities in other areas.

Nanaimo needs to watch expenditures and manage their finances just as people personally need to do. We must be prudent on expenses and consider the larger picture of finances over a time frame anticipating large-scale expenditure and planning for the future not just right now. With the rapid growth we are experiencing, Nanaimo will most likely benefit from increased revenue from property taxes which could result in smaller increases in business and property tax rates.

People should vote for me because I'm a person of high integrity with an excellent work ethic. I form good connections with people as I am approachable, caring and committed to the City of Nanaimo. I have proven leadership in conflictual situations and I proactively practice collaboration with all citizens of Nanaimo.

Preparing for the debates

Wednesday, September 19th, 2018

I've been preparing for the debates - this is quite a job I'm applying for! So much to know, absorb and learn but fascinating.
Did you know that the Transportation Plan is a beautiful document but very lofty goals but not a lot of it has been implemented and other issues are out of date?
I looked at the maps of the identified traffic corridors and it looks like two major corridors that have developed over the last 5 years is Sixth Street and 2nd Street. Both those streets have become major traffic corridors due to the massive development behind 7th Street. Cars come down 7th, hang a left on Howard and on 6th and boot it up to 6th going very fast. Same on the way down 6th. It's become a raceway and we have all lost at least 6 animals in the last couple of years.
A citizen who lives on Hawthorne corner of Wakesiah and 2nd feels the same thing has happened to her street. People turn left from the Parkway exit and race down 2nd to the light.
So I would like to say that, if elected, I will put forth plans to have the Transportation Plan updated and put in place some of the many good ideas.