Councillors Silas White and Stafford Lumley are reluctant to give up land for three duplexes but offer no clear alternative
By Margot Grant Gibsons councillors Silas White and Stafford Lumley feel uncomfortable about giving up the land of the former RCMP site at 749 School Road to Habitat for Humanity to build three duplexes of affordable housing.
Habitat representatives said earlier this week that the first family could move in within two-and-a-half years if the plans proceed.
“It is clear what Habitat wants, but I think there is a bigger picture here,” White said at the November 7 council meeting. “What are the options for other projects, what are the needs [for affordable housing] here on the Coast? I would like more discussion.”
Lumley commented that Habitat’s proposal rubbed him the wrong way: “What are the options for transitional housing on that site, what are we doing for the homeless? We let ourselves and others down if we give up this piece of land. I don’t want to get emotional, but it makes me feel bad.”
Habitat wants to build six homes for qualifying families, Sunshine Coast Habitat’s executive director Cori-Lynn Germiquet told the town’s November 7 committee-of-the-whole meeting. The families must put in 500 hours of volunteer work in lieu of a down payment on the homes and then assume an interest-free mortgage.
Germiquet emphasized that Habitat would have first right of refusal if the owners want to sell the home, so that another qualifying family could benefit, but White was sceptical: “They may have the right of first refusal, but I feel uncomfortable the land is still in other hands.”
Lumley pointed out that with at least 40 families live in squalor in Gibsons, six units of affordable housing is not a very high number. “I would certainly hope we can accommodate more people,” he said.
Over the past twelve years, Habitat for Humanity has built 13 homes on the Coast. It received support at the meeting from councillor Charlene SanJenko, who said she liked that Habitat’s clear proposal for the site, noting that the non-profit is an efficient organization and has done a good job in Sechelt.
Under the federal surplus real property for homelessness initiative, the old RCMP site can be obtained for $1 to create affordable housing.
Mayor Wayne Rowe said Habitat needs a letter from the town to proceed with the federal project and warned that the opportunity to obtain the land for $1 is not indefinite, and that Habitat has the resources to build on the site, whereas the town does not. “Somebody needs to come up with a plan,” he said.
Council and staff will meet with Habitat for Humanity representatives to discuss a coordinated approach to development for the site. The town is holding an open house on November 14 at 7 p.m. at the Gibsons Public Art Gallery where council members and citizens will discuss affordable housing options.We hope you found this post interesting. Your donation will help us provide independent news in our community. Thank you.