Proposed referendum for new service scheduled for November 28

Original Article:
By  Michael Briones – Comox Valley Echo


The Comox Valley Regional District is proposing to hold a fall referendum to seek electoral approval for a new service to address homelessness.

The proposed referendum date is Nov. 28.

The CVRD does not have a service that relates to providing support for affordable housing.

The board of directors has taken guidance from the November 2014 non-binding public opinion poll, where 71 per cent of voters supported a $5 per year property tax to reduce homelessness, and decided last June to direct staff to develop a new service establishment bylaw.

The proposed maximum requisition for this service is the greater of $165,000 or two cents per $1,000 of assessed value. The maximum tax levy that could be charged is $6.

The levies collected will be provided to one or more local non-government organizations based on a board-approved five-year action plan to address homelessness in the Comox Valley.

The participants would be City of Courtenay, Village of Cumberland, and Electoral Areas A (excluding Denman and Hornby Islands), B, and C. The Town of Comox will not be part of the service but will support efforts to address homelessness by contributing funds to providers on its own accord.

The projected financial impact on service participants based on 2 cents per $1,000 are:

• Area A – $19,491.35

• Area B -$23,258.48

• Area C – $29,816.15

• Courtenay – $81,279.73

• Cumberland – $8,928.94

If voters approve the service at the proposed referendum in November, it can provide up to $150,000 annually for local non-organizations.

The question voters will be asked at the referendum is:

“Are you in favour of the Comox Valley Regional District adopting Bylaw No. 389 being “Comox Valley Homelessness Supports Service Establishment Bylaw No. 389, 2015″ to establish a service that would provide funds to one or more local non-governmental organizations based on a board approved five-year action plan to address homelessness in the Comox Valley?”

The referendum will cost $50,000. The funds would be derived from the regional feasibility study fund and will pay for room rentals, legal advertising, voting place, staff, mail ballot voting procedures, voting supplies, ballot printing and legal advise.

Staff has already established a reference to a policy framework for implementation of this services delivery model. They’ve asked the board to approve it prior to the referendum to provide greater public certainty.

The Comox Valley coalition to end homelessness had been asked to develop a five-year plan for the board of directors to approve.

Councillor Erik Eriksson asked if the coalition could be designated to specifically be the recipient of the funds to be doled out.

James Warren, the corporate legislative officer, explained that the coalition is not eligible because they are a collection of individuals and agencies.

“They are not a society, they are not a corporation and they’re not a legal entity,” said Warren.

Courtenay Mayor and director Larry Jangula applauded the efforts initiated by the CVRD on homelessness.

“I must say for the first time in a long time, I have some actual hope on this process and I have confidence on this plan,” said Jangula. “I have been critical of it in the past because in my opinion, over a half a million dollars of provincial money have been spent and we have nothing to show for it. I really like what we’re looking at.”

The committee approved the staff recommendation to introduce Bylaw No. 389 to establish Comox Valley Homelessness Supports Service and that electoral approval be sought by way of a referendum (assent voting) to be conducted by the board and to be held on November 28, 2015.