Candidates' Forum on Housing and Homelessness

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.

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