In a 4-2 vote, Courtenay council defeated a motion from Mayor Larry Jangula which proposed measures to streamline approval processes for housing projects. The idea would be to stimulate rental development in a broadened downtown area from Fourth to 17th to McPhee to the Courtenay River.
Jangula proposed to establish a committee of three elected officials, including the mayor, to review development applications more than 90 days old to determine ways to prioritize and expedite approval. The motion called for a second committee of two elected officials, city staff, and the CV Development and Construction Association to meet on a regular basis to resolve matters concerning project approvals.
At Monday’s meeting, Coun. Manno Theos moved the motion but it was not seconded. Jangula then switched seats with Theos to second the motion.
“The City of Courtenay has been identified as one of the top 10 least affordable cities in British Columbia,” Jangula said. “We continue to see the city’s rental vacancy rate unchanged at .5 per cent year over year. This issue is not new. It’s now time for council to take action.”
He proposed the above area be declared a tax-free zone as far as increases, for five-10 years, for those wanting to build rental units.
“I believe this is an opportunity, and I commend the mayor for bringing this forward,” said Theos, noting an opportunity to nurture a relationship with the development community. “Let’s not throw this opportunity away.”
Coun. David Frisch doesn’t believe that providing carte blanche for development will help the housing crunch over the long-term.
“I’m very much in favour of creating affordable housing but I’m not sure if this is the way to do it,” he said. “Building more units won’t solve the problem.”
Coun. Bob Wells questioned how to implement the seven proposed measures. He prefers further discussion to ensure the measures reflect the needs of the community.
When Jangula tried to debate the issue, Coun. Doug Hillian called a point of order for the mayor to again vacate his chair.
Hillian opposes the motion because additional committees would add to the workload of City staff. He also worries a review committee might politicize things. He prefers to deal with concerns openly at council meetings.
While he acknowledges the frustration in the development community, Coun. Erik Eriksson feels Jangula’s motion is too much.
“We’re all acting like we’ve never heard this,” said Jangula, noting the lack of density downtown and the lack of affordable housing constructed in the last 25 years. “We have to do something to help.”
The matter was referred to staff for comment. Coun. Rebecca Lennox was absent Monday.