Comox Valley Echo
By: Michael Briones
Original article: http://www.comoxvalleyecho.com/news/local-news/council-orders-staff-to-address-language-in-draft-rfp-for-braidwood-housing-project-1.1733579
Courtenay council rejected the draft request for proposal for the 30-unit housing project on Braidwood Road.
The main issues raised by some members of council centre on the language used in the draft as well as legal concerns.
Staff presented the draft RFP created by John Jessup to council to select a qualified non-profit group or organization that will construct and operate a housing complex that addresses a wide range of in-need and at risk tenants. This project is high on council’s 2013 Strategic Priorities List.
The RFP was supposed to be issued late last year but it was delayed due to uncertainty regarding funding for annual operating costs. BC Housing has indicated no program is currently available for operating subsidies. The province also is not making any financial commitments to the project.
With no annual operating funding available, council amended its focus on a supportive housing model for the Braidwood initiative and by making it an affordable housing model. That means, the range of people it would serve will include not only the homeless and working poor but also struggling families with children and seniors.
Councilor Doug Hillian could not support the draft because he feels that by adopting an affordable housing concept, the city is contravening the covenant the city agreed on.
Hillian explained when the city acquired the property located between Kean Auto Services and private apartments at Five Oaks Villas for $1, there was an agreement it would be for the development of an emergency shelter and/or supportive housing.
Groups and organizations in the Comox Valley, as well as other municipalities, all favoured the supportive housing model. But council’s amendment to scope of the project’s objective has received a lot of opposition, which council has been made aware of.
Mayor Larry Jangula said the city is caught in a difficult financial situation. He wants this project to proceed but it also has to be financially feasible.
“We are caught between the province and the municipal taxpayers almost $1 million,” said Jangula. “Basically, I think the community is very vocal and clear that they want us to move forward. I appreciate and understand the need and the want for this supportive housing aspect. I get it. The problem is, the money is not there right now. What we’re hoping to get is a Cadillac but we might have to settle for something less than that right now.”
Jangula said he would like council to allow Jessup and city staff to move forward with the project, to get a proposal and to get a building built.
“If we have to start off as being affordable with some services provided on an outreach basis, that may be what we start off with,” said Jangula. “That doesn’t mean in the future, when money does come along, which Mr. (David) Allen allude to as Mr. Jessup, we couldn’t turn it into a supportive housing which has more services and more intensity. I am afraid if we walk and it has to be supportive, and the province has no money, then that’s the end of the project. We wasted over a $1 million and we have nothing.”
Hillian agrees the community wants this project to proceed but he is concern that what they will be delivering is not what the funding is intended for.
“Not only do we not meet the intent of the greatest need that is out there but we also potentially have legal problems based on the money that it was arranged for in the first place,” said Hillian.
Council directed staff to revise the draft RFP by addressing some of the language used as well as consult legal counsel on it.
BC Housing did provide Courtenay a $50,000 Proposal Development Funding loan for the design and development of the Braidwood Road site. City staff used $10,000 to hire a social planning consultant, Jessup to prepare and administer a RFP to non-profit societies or groups to develop and operate an affordable housing project on the site.
The Braidwood Road site has an area of 1617 square meters and is within walking distance to amenities, shopping and the downtown. It has a large, older single family dwelling at the site that is zoned Residential Four Zone.
City staff recommended a maximum three-story apartment building for this site given its limited size and the close proximity of existing multiple residential buildings.