Referendum back on the table

The idea of a referendum on an affordable housing project has been voted down - stock photo
The idea of a referendum on an affordable housing project has been voted down
— image credit: stock photo

The regional district board wants to hear from the electorate before deciding yay or nay about the establishment of an affordable housing service.

On Tuesday, the board directed staff to prepare a report about the process for a non-binding referendum question at election time in November. The question would determine the public’s willingness to fund a service up to six dollars per year for a property valued at $300,000. Directors will discuss the report next month at committee of the whole, from where it will be referred to municipalities or amended as needed.

Earlier in the month, the committee voted against a fall referendum concerning the proposed service.

A non-binding referendum is akin to an opinion poll — “taking the temperature” of the electorate, in the words of board chair Edwin Grieve.

The Comox Valley Housing Task Force had proposed the service, hoping to create a local government non-profit housing society to help expand the Valley’s affordable housing base. The budget for the service allotted $150,000 in administrative expenses — including a $93,900 salary to a housing planner.

Comox director Tom Grant, a member of the task force who brought the item back to the table Tuesday, had hoped the board could formulate a referendum question for the fall to set up the function. Otherwise, it could miss the next budget cycle and not see money until 2016.

“We keep missing the boat on this. I had the feeling the board wanted to do something in the area of homelessness,” Grant said, noting the proposed budget was too “prescriptive.”

Alternate Cumberland director Roger Kishi and Courtenay director Starr Winchester cautioned against moving forward in haste and making a mistake.

“If we don’t get this right and it’s defeated at referendum, it’s dead forever,” Courtenay director Jon Ambler said.


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