Comox council has approved a combined $60,000 to be donated to Habitat for Humanity through the Comox Valley Coalition to End Homelessness from the Town’s affordable housing fund.
At the April 15 meeting, council approved a recommendation on behalf of Andrea Cupellli, the co-ordinator for the CVCEH, which asked council to reallocate 2019 funding of $30,000 and $30,000 of 2020 funding to be directed toward Habitat for its Lake Trail build.
In her letter to council, Cupelli asked council to designate the $30,000 budgeted through its homeless support initiative for 2020 to Habitat, along with a request to have $30,000 of funds originally designated in 2019 to the Comox Valley Transition Society to Habitat, as the funding for the transition society was not needed.
Mayor Russ Arnott noted the funds referred to in the letter were set up years ago by the Town so that the municipality could direct funds where council saw fit.
“In the past, we’ve given it to the coalition because it made sense and they do a great job – I don’t want to take anything away from them. Now, we do have an opportunity to put money towards our residents and our own community. We only have a limited amount to go around.”
He told council while he understands the good work the CVCEH does, the money would go towards a project in Courtenay and not Comox. He asked if the funds could instead be used to lower rent for six units at a soon-to-be-built development at 695 Aspen Rd.
Part of the agreement between the Town and Highstreet Ventures (the company that is building the development on Aspen Road) is that the Town would receive $142,000 cash-in-lieu for its affordable housing reserve fund and Highstreet would offer six units in a condo building at below cost.
Coun. Ken Grant asked what the impact would be on the Aspen property if funds would be redirected to that project in order to lower rent.
“It would probably save about $40 to $50 per month for all six units,” explained Al Kenning, the Town’s acting chief administrative officer.
“It’s an impact, but it would be minimal,” replied Grant.
“When the coalition was put together – it did so for precisely for that reason. We used to have all these groups come and ask us for money, and as a result, nobody ever funded anything. [The coalition] actually comes and tells us where they’re going to put the money towards. That’s part of what we asked for, and I think it makes sense we know what they’re doing with the money.”
Coun. Nicole Minions said the Town previously approved the funds in 2019 to the CVCEH, and future money can be reviewed as to where it should be directed.
“Builds are in Courtenay but applications are open to all residents of the Comox Valley. It’s very likely that the builds they are doing could impact Comox residents that could be applying.”
Arnott replied if funds are put towards Courtenay projects, it could appear as though the Town is pushing residents out of Comox and into another community.
“We should look out for our residents as well. I do think we have an opportunity there – and great potential at 695 Aspen to take our residents’ tax dollars and put it towards use for them.”
Noting the lack of land or availability to build in Comox, Coun. Stephanie McGowan explained the funds have been allocated for the coalition to do what it needs to do, and future negotiations are possible.
“The houses that Habitat can complete with money can benefit everybody; it would help bring rental costs down for everybody. When you said something about our residents having to leave Comox – that’s true for so many people right now. I don’t think $60,000 toward 695 Aspen will put as much of a dent in it as we would like. Putting it toward the coalition at this point would help them and foster our relationship in the future to help build more in Comox and work together in that way.”
McGowan moved a motion that both the 2019 and 2020 funds be allocated to the Habitat project via the CVCEH, which was passed unanimously by council.