Newly formed Squamish Community Housing Society will tackle District’s affordable housing challenge  

The District of Squamish has established a Squamish Community Housing Society to increase the supply, availability and access to affordable housing options across the community and entire housing spectrum. The Society will work with the District of Squamish, non-profit housing agencies and the community to grow and sustain a diverse range and supply of affordable housing options as well as implement management and access efficiencies where appropriate.

The Society was formally established in December 2021 and is intended to be operational by mid-2022 once the positions of Board of Directors and the Executive Director have been filled, recruitment for which is now underway. Once operational, its first steps will be to establish a single point of contact and a waiting list for affordable housing in the community outside of individual non-profit housing providers, and assume management of affordable housing units that are being provided in new developments as part of Community Amenity Contributions related to re-zonings. It is anticipated that a number of these units will reach the occupancy stage starting in late 2023. The Society has also been tasked with the development of a new housing project in the community within the next few years with more to follow.

“Housing affordability continues to be a critical priority for our community to ensure that housing options exist at affordable levels and that residents have the option to live and work in Squamish regardless of their income,” says District of Squamish Mayor Karen Elliott. “There is an urgent need for affordable housing in Squamish. Helping to facilitate affordable housing projects through the establishment of the Society will bring us closer to our goal of being a community in which stable, secure and affordable housing options are available to those who need it. While the 232 units at Westwinds for seniors and 76 units on Buckley Avenue will both achieve occupancy in 2022, we recognize there is still much work to do on this front, and we look forward to collaborating with the Housing Society to ensure the policy, zoning and process is in place to help them achieve their goals.”   

The Squamish Community Housing Society will operate independently, but in collaboration with the District, as a non-profit organization governed by a Board of Directors comprised of a member of District of Squamish Council as well as representatives from:

 Partner Quotes:

“Our community is experiencing a housing crisis like we have never seen before. Sea to Sky Community Services has been the leading provider of affordable, non-market and social housing in the Squamish area offering hundreds of units of housing for individuals, couples, and families across a broad spectrum of income, ages, abilities, and family circumstances. And yet the need for affordable housing persists. We look forward to working with the newly formed society to find much-needed housing solutions for Squamish.”
Jaye Russell, Executive Director, Sea to Sky Community Services 

“This is a huge step in the right direction for our community, ensuring that there will be a continuum of housing solutions for everyone at all income levels. Locally, provincially and nationally we are finally coming to terms with the fact that we have to protect housing as human right. Squamish is facing that responsibility head on with this newly-formed organization. I see this as a privilege and an honour, to work in collaboration with local partners as we create and implement inclusive housing strategies. This is an important step toward managing growth, a way to preserve that home-town-local-neighbour feel that we all appreciate about living here. It is a way to ensure that regardless of what we have or don’t have, we all matter and deserve a home.”
Maureen Mackell, Executive Director, Squamish Helping Hands Society / Under One Roof

“The Squamish Community Housing Society is the result of years of collaboration on behalf of local non-profits and the District of Squamish to advocate for an affordable housing strategy for the community. Howe Sound Women’s Centre Society is thrilled to see the Squamish Community Housing Society established and looks forward to contributing to the ongoing work to create housing that meets the diverse needs in Squamish.”
Ashley Oakes, Executive Director, Howe Sound Women’s Centre Society

 

Background:

Affordable housing supply is critical to ensure a diverse and equitable community, and affordability for all earning levels of the local workforce, and has been a primary focus of this Council as well as the last. The District has taken action to create affordable housing through various means, most notable is the Under One Roof and Spirit Creek Apartments (formerly known as the Buckley Avenue Affordable housing project) whereby the District contributed the land and a local housing provider provided the management, with financial contributions secured from BC Housing.

In 2018, Council approved a Zoning Bylaw Amendment that addressed Official Community Plan Implementation Priorities and listed “Housing as a Human Right” as one of the priorities. Council also endorsed a ’Housing First Strategy’ or approach to housing vulnerable populations. ‘Housing First’ is an approach to ending homelessness that centers on moving people experiencing homelessness into independent and permanent housing as a first step.

In March 2020, Council approved the Perpetually Affordable Housing (PAH) Policy to provide a clear definition of the District’s affordable housing needs, in order for developers to pledge units to the affordable housing inventory from their developments as part of a Community Amenity Contribution (CAC). The policy ensures rental rates are determined by income in order to support the diverse housing needs of the community. CACs are negotiated by the District as part of amendments proposed to the Zoning Bylaw or Official Community Plan by developers.

The District continues to work with BC Housing and community non-profit partners to increase affordable housing supply. Municipal tools that the District can leverage include providing land, rezoning where possible, creating tools and policies to support affordable housing and advocating with the province for funding partnerships.

Housing by the Numbers:

In its first two years of operation, the Housing Society will focus on hiring and organizational structure, establishing the Society as the ‘Face of Affordable Housing’ in Squamish, offering meaningful service to participating non-profits and identifying a potential new development.

Resources:

February 24, 2022

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