The plan is for a three-storey, multi-family building on Second Street. Record file photo

The plan is for a three-storey, multi-family building on Second Street. Record file photo

Cumberland considers tax break for affordable housing project on Second Street

OCP, zoning amendments still need adoption for site of proposed 22-unit building

Cumberland’s council is considering ways to assist a proposed affordable housing project in the community.

The planned project for 3345 Second St. did not receive a grant from the province last year, so council discussed other ways to offer support. While a number of measures were cited in the village staff report, some are already happening, which left council with a couple of options for a request for financial support.

“It’s in response to a letter we received last August,” senior planner Karin Albert told council at the April 11 meeting.

At that time, Wiser Projects, acting as agent for the two organizations planning to operate the 22-unit, three-storey housing project, asked the village to consider ways it could help. As Albert pointed out, the village has already taken steps such as fast-tracking applications for affordable housing.

Council focused on two options. One would be to offer property tax exemptions for the improvements on the land during the early years of the project. The other would be to waive development cost charges (DCCs) that cover infrastructure costs.

The housing project is being spearheaded by the Comox Valley Transition Society (CVTS) and Dawn to Dawn Action on Homelessness Society, which had applied to BC Housing for funding in January 2021 but were unsuccessful.

In December 2020, council had given third reading to official community plan and zoning bylaw amendments for the site, which need to be adopted.

“The project still has some conditions to fill,” Albert added.

RELATED STORY: Province turns down grant for Cumberland project

Council opted for the tax exemptions but not waiving DCCs, though there has been support among council members for more affordable housing. Staff had also recommended the option as it is easier to finance.

“We know we want this project,” Coun. Vickey Brown said, adding this will help strengthen the groups’ future applications for grant funding. “I think we need to give a little.”

Another option is for reduced parking requirements. While council did discuss this, the staff report notes a final report will have to be presented to council for a decision on parking after the zoning bylaw is adopted.

Council members cited the need for infrastructure for the project as a reason not to waive DCCs. However, they did feel the village can look at exemptions for the amount of tax for the assessed value of improvements on the site once the facility is built.

“It’s money that we’re not collecting now, and so it won’t necessarily be missed,” Coun. Jesse Ketler said.

Council passed a motion to have staff draft a tax exemption bylaw. In a subsequent motion, they also asked staff to look into the feasibility of the village establishing an annual reserve to assist affordable housing projects as part of budget discussions for 2023.



mike.chouinard@comoxvalleyrecord.com

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