The regional district board voted Tuesday to proceed with transferring ownership of property in the 800 block of Cliffe Avenue to the City of Courtenay.
Two years ago the district purchased the trio of lots for $470,000. This year, the CVRD board voted to sell the lots to the City of Courtenay for $1 on the condition that the properties, or proceeds from selling them, be used for emergency shelter and supportive housing purposes.
Courtenay council recently accepted the offer to transfer ownership, along with a $100,000 grant from the Vancouver Island Health Authority, to assist with developing a shelter and/or supportive housing project, subject to dissolving the shelter and housing function.
Courtenay director Jon Ambler suggests the board’s actions can break the “logjam of controversy” that arose from a purchase that was made in good will.
“Homelessness is a regional district, Valley-wide problem,” Area B director Jim Gillis said. “In no way do I think we should abrogate our responsibility to the Comox Valley…I firmly believe we’re all behind Courtenay.”
Gillis hopes a “willing buyer” will pay at least $470,000 for the land.
Courtenay Mayor Larry Jangula said money from the sale would go into a pot, and could be leveraged to do something to help establish low-cost housing.
When he sat on the CVRD board, Jangula opposed the proposed shelter location at the time of the purchase, as did area businesses. He feels subsidized housing would not cause the same pushback.
“I still think the business area in the downtown and through that area where the proposed shelter location was is fragile,” Jangula said. “A lot of those businesses are holding on by the skin of their teeth, and I don’t think they need any more monkey wrenches thrown into the system. And this was a monkey wrench.”
He suggests a more suitable location would be Puntledge Road, which he calls a “destination business district” for tires and appliance repair, whereas downtown is geared for “impulse buying.”
“We really don’t need a new shelter,” Jangula said. “What we need is long-term housing, we need subsidized housing. We need to help some of the people that are couch-surfing and that have problems finding a permanent place to live.”
At a council meeting this year, Jangula had initiated a resolution to amend commercial zoning to ensure homeless shelters are not permitted within a specified area of the downtown core. The item has not come back to council.