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City of Nanaimo trying for $15-million grant to help with housing goals

City applies to Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s housing accelerator fund
The City of Nanaimo is applying for a Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation housing accelerator fund grant, stating a goal of permitting 1,175 housing units per year. (News Bulletin file photo)

The City of Nanaimo has set out housing goals, and $15 million in federal funding would help realize some of those goals.

Nanaimo city council, at a meeting Monday, July 24, approved a finance committee recommendation to submit a grant application through the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s housing accelerator fund.

To be eligible for the grant, municipalities must have a current housing needs report – Nanaimo council received such a report just last month – as well as housing supply targets and a minimum of seven housing-related initiatives in the works.

“Through the integrated action plan process and business plans and our budget process, there were actually quite a few initiatives that were already endorsed by council that we could choose from to make a compelling application,” said Lisa Brinkman, the city’s manager of community planning, at a finance and audit meeting July 19.

Nanaimo’s housing needs report stated the city will need 1,155 residential units per year over the next 10 years. The city’s application to the CMHC will set a target of 1,175 units per year, up from the city’s average of 1,000 over the past 10 years. Brinkman said the city’s building permitted housing supply numbers have been as high as 1,487 in 2019, but as low as 613 in 2020 and so staff considers 1,175 a safe target.

If successful, the city would put more than half the grant, $8.8 million, toward purchasing properties for affordable and supportive housing. Another $6 million would go to sewer projects supporting housing development in the university district and the north end.

Bill Sims, the city’s general manager of engineering and public works, said the Buttertubs lateral sewer that services Vancouver Island University and the surrounding area, installed in the 1970s, is nearing capacity and needs to be upgraded “before they start flushing toilets” at new on-campus student housing planned at VIU. Sims said around the city, sewer development cost charges being collected aren’t enough to keep pace with growth.

READ ALSO: Nanaimo will be asked to meet provincial housing targets

The city’s application to the CMHC will point to nine housing-related initiatives. Some of those include pre-zoning for affordable housing in urban hubs and corridors, amended zoning to create opportunities for secondary suites and coach houses, creation of a Woodgrove area plan, and modernization of permitting and approvals software.

Coun. Janice Perrino said it seemed like a “no-brainer” to make the application to the housing accelerator fund.

“It’s an excellent grant opportunity and lots of dollars that we can well use…” she said. “If there’s no concerns about meeting the [building permit] goals, the opportunity to have this money come back to us, wow, that would make a big difference.”

READ ALSO: RDN’s regional growth strategy will attempt to address housing needs

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About the Author: Greg Sakaki

I have been in the community newspaper business for two decades, all of those years with Black Press Media.
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