Since 2016, Comox Valley taxpayers have been paying into a Homelessness Supports Service that has helped fund 78 affordable housing units. These include single detached homes, condos, supportive housing and capital improvements to the Connect Warming Centre in Courtenay.
The service stemmed from a 2015 referendum where voters approved funding one or more non-government organizations based on a five-year action plan to address homelessness. The previous year, 71 per cent of voters in a non-binding, public opinion poll had supported at least a $5 per year property tax.
From 2016-2020, $685,000 in contributions toward affordable housing has generated a $14-million investment.
“For every dollar that the service has contributed, about $19 has been invested from other sources,” consultant Cassandra Vink said in a Jan. 26 presentation to the Comox Valley Regional District board.
The maximum amount of tax that cay be requisitioned is the greater of $165,000, or two cents per $1,000 applied to the value of land. The service includes Courtenay, Cumberland, Area A (excluding Denman and Hornby Islands), and Areas B and C. Comox opted not to participate in the service. It provides funds on its own accord to service providers.
Vink recommends a number of changes to strengthen the service. To generate more revenue, the district could increase the tax requisition, explore the possibility of Comox’s participation, or ask Courtenay and Cumberland to provide more money earmarked for affordable housing.
Another recommendation is to provide $30,000 per year, or five per cent of the value of the service, to support the co-ordinator’s role at the CV Coalition to End Homelessness. Andrea Cupelli is the co-ordinator of the collective that helps homeless individuals through various initiatives, such as the warming centre on Cliffe Avenue.
Area A director Daniel Arbour credits the provincial government for stepping up since the CVRD created the service.
Area C director Edwin Grieve suggests a 25 per cent bump to help fill some gaps.
The maximum requisition for 2021 is $278,471. Staff said a 25 per cent hike would yield a maximum levy of $348,000, based on property assessments.
Courtenay director Doug Hillian said it makes sense to allow staff time to consider budget implications before directors consider the recommendations.
“I know this service started out primarily as, ‘Let’s put money into housing,’ but what we’ve learned over the years is if you don’t have staff doing the leg work, you don’t get very far,” Hillian said. “Andrea has done a tremendous job. We don’t have the same impact with this coalition without her work and her role. So I think providing some sustainable funding for that position, along with the investment in housing, is crucial.”
Directors agreed to have staff report back about the recommendations.