Courtenay hires consultant for housing project

Courtenay council has voted to enter into an agreement with a Nanaimo-based social planning consultant.

Courtenay council has voted to enter into an agreement with a Nanaimo-based social planning consultant to prepare a request for proposal for a supportive housing project at 810 Braidwood Rd.

John Jessup & Associates will develop a report over the next 18 weeks. During that time, Jessup will engage the Braidwood area through open houses and by establishing a neighbourhood advisory committee, among other measures.

The report will identify a range of housing options intended to support homeless individuals.

The City purchased the Braidwood property for $264,500 after selling a trio of lots at Cliffe Avenue for $355,000. The regional district purchased the Cliffe Avenue properties for $470,000 in 2010 for emergency shelter/supportive housing purposes.

Last year, the district transferred ownership of the properties to the City, along with $100,000 from the Vancouver Island Health Authority to develop the project elsewhere.

“To say we are frustrated is an understatement,” Coun. Starr Winchester told Jessup at Monday’s committee of the whole meeting. “We’ve been working on this for years.”

Jessup worked for the City of Vancouver as a social housing and senior housing planner from 1980 to 2000. He has since worked as a private social housing consultant. His most recent project was the Rose Harbour women’s transition home in Campbell River.

Mayor Larry Jangula cautioned about pushback from residents if a homeless shelter were constructed at Braidwood. What’s needed, he said, is single-room occupancy (SRO) homes, which would relieve pressure at the existing shelter in Courtenay.

“We are looking at long-term housing,” said Jangula, who expects the project would contain about 40 units.

Coun. Ronna-Rae Leonard, who does not share Jangula’s opinion of emergency shelters, “thought we were hitting target populations” when the shelter/transitional housing concept was discussed when the CVRD had purchased the property across from City Hall.

“But it is a challenge,” she said.

The budget for the Braidwood project proposal is $10,500. The cost will be covered by a $50,000 grant from BC Housing, provided to assist with planning and developing a supportive housing proposal. The remainder will be available to the successful proponent to assist in furthering the project.