Emergency personnel and city officials at the scene of a fire on Wesley Street last Thursday. Nanaimo city council members were asked about housing and homelessness spending at a town hall meeting Monday. (News Bulletin file photo)

Emergency personnel and city officials at the scene of a fire on Wesley Street last Thursday. Nanaimo city council members were asked about housing and homelessness spending at a town hall meeting Monday. (News Bulletin file photo)

Nanaimo citizens ask about housing and homelessness at budget-focused town hall meeting

E-town hall meeting was held Monday as public engagement component of financial planning process

Citizens have questions about a potential property tax increase, but also want to know how housing and homelessness issues might factor into the financial plan.

The City of Nanaimo held a budget-focused e-town hall meeting Monday as part of the process in putting together the 2021-25 financial plan.

After a fire last Thursday at an encampment on Wesley Street led to the city dismantling the camp and displacing approximately 60 people experiencing homelessness, council was asked what sort of spending was planned on the housing and homelessness files.

Mayor Leonard Krog said council is sympathetic and has worked hard with the provincial government and agencies to secure resources to address homelessness.

“It is not the city’s jurisdiction, legal responsibility, nor does it have the resources to deliver those kinds of services,” Krog said. “We do not provide mental health care, we do not provide addiction services, we do not provide social assistance, we do not provide health care generally.”

Coun. Ben Geselbracht said it’s “extremely important” that the city continue to keep raising the issue with the provincial and federal governments.

“We need to evaluate how we’re allocating our resources as a whole society and why there’s such a gap to have not enough to be able to support these people with roofs over their head and the proper health services,” Geselbracht said.

Councillors Sheryl Armstrong, Erin Hemmens and Don Bonner mentioned different provincial and civic initiatives including permanent supportive housing and affordable housing projects, a navigation centre for people experiencing homelessness, a rent bank, and $500,000 reserved in the city budget to address recommendations in a health and housing task force report expected Dec. 14. Councillors noted that staff members do a lot of work on housing and homelessness, even if it doesn’t always show up as line items in the budget.

Bonner said staff work on identifying, zoning and permitting properties to accommodate housing, and Hemmens said there’s a lot of “horsepower” in the city’s social planning staff members, whom she called the foundation of the city’s approach to addressing homelessness.

“We have social planners on the ground who are responsible for liaising, co-ordinating, supporting all of our social service agencies and bringing all of that work together,” Hemmens said.

story continues below

Some of the other questions raised by the public at Monday’s e-town hall related to bike lanes, sidewalks and new staff positions in the budget.

“We don’t spend your money recklessly. We might have differences of opinion on priorities, but it’s all debated fully,” said Coun. Ian Thorpe. “Some decisions go one way, some the other, but hopefully they’re all responsible decisions.”

Asked about the projected 3.6-per cent property tax increase compared with the rate of inflation, Krog suggested the city’s expenditures differ from household purchases.

“We don’t buy many groceries at the City of Nanaimo, but we buy a lot of construction pipe. We pay for a lot of pavement. We pay for a number of goods and services, particularly construction costs in the general sense that are rising at a much higher rate than the consumer rate of inflation,” the mayor said.

Thorpe noted that the city commits to a 1.0-per cent annual tax increase for asset management, so two-per cent inflation takes the tax increase to 3.0 per cent as a starting point.

“We’re trying to limit anything beyond that and I think so far we’ve done a pretty good job,” he said. “We’re still working on it.”

Thorpe said all councillors want to keep taxes as low as possible and Krog said residents also depend on the city to be able to deliver services.

“Would we love to have a zero tax increase? Yes, that would be nice,” Krog said. “Is it realistic and possible to continue to deliver services in the middle of a pandemic with that kind of a tax increase, at zero? No, it’s not.”

The City of Nanaimo will continue the budgeting process at a special finance and audit committee meeting Wednesday, Dec. 9.

RELATED: Nanaimo city councillors support adding six more staff positions to this year’s budget

RELATED: Two new police staffers in Nanaimo will help get child porn cases to court

RELATED: City of Nanaimo budgets for new $1.3-million bike lane on Albert Street

RELATED: City of Nanaimo’s financial plan includes $314 million for projects

RELATED: City of Nanaimo begins budgeting with 3.3% tax increase as a starting point


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

City HallHomelessness

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools’ district administration centre. (News Bulletin file)
Nanaimo-Ladysmith school district gets started on new budget amid unknowns

Ministry’s per-student funding increase doesn’t fully cover pay raises for teachers and support staff

Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools. (News Bulletin file photo)
Nanaimo school district reports COVID-19 case at Fairview Elementary

April 9 exposure the fourth case reported in SD68 since spring break

The old career resource centre, formerly Quennell School, was demolished last week. (Photo courtesy Erik Warners)
Old career centre and school demolished in Nanaimo’s Old City Quarter

School district says building was decaying and was unsuitable for use

Nanaimo Fire Rescue’s two new pumper trucks, slated to be delivered in the fall, will have battery-powered idle-reduction technology. (News Bulletin file photo)
Nanaimo’s newest fire trucks will come with idle-reduction technology

Pumper trucks arriving from U.S.-based manufacturer will use battery power to save fuel

A raccoon prowls near a porch in north Nanaimo last fall. (News Bulletin file photo)
LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Attack on dog shows raccoons can be nasty creatures

We had to take our black lab to the emergency vet for treatment, says letter writer

People take part in an anti-curfew protest in Montreal on Sunday April 11, 2021. Hundreds of people gathered in Old Montreal tonight in defiance of a new 8 p.m. curfew. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Giuseppe Valiante
VIDEO: Hundreds defy Montreal’s 8 p.m. curfew in violent, destructive protest

Quebec reported 1,535 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday, as well as five additional deaths linked to the virus

Photos of Vancouver Canucks players are pictured outside the closed box office of Rogers Arena in downtown Vancouver Thursday, April 8, 2021. The Vancouver Canucks say 25 players and coaches have tested positive during a COVID-19 outbreak that involves a variant of the virus. It is now the biggest reported outbreak in the NHL this season. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Canucks’ return to practice pushed back as player added to COVID protocol list

COVID outbreak has led to eight games being cancelled

AstraZeneca vaccine is becoming available at B.C. pharmacies outside the Lower Mainland, as of Friday, April 9. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Frank Augstein
Immunization program expands to five Nanaimo pharmacies

Residents 55-65-year-old can get their first dose of AstraZeneca vaccine

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
UPDATE: RCMP investigating after child, 6, dies at motel in Duncan, B.C.

The BC Coroners Service is conducting its own investigation into the circumstances around the child’s death

RCMP display some of the fish seized from three suspects who pleaded guilty to violating the Fisheries Act in 2019, in this undated handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - RCMP
3 banned from fishing, holding licences after overfishing violations near Vancouver Island

Mounties seized the group’s 30-foot fishing vessel and all equipment on board at the time

B.C. Premier John Horgan responds to questions during a postelection news conference in Vancouver, on Sunday, October 25, 2020. British Columbia’s opposition Liberals and Greens acknowledge the COVID-19 pandemic has presented huge challenges for Horgan’s government, but they say Monday’s throne speech must outline a coherent plan for the province’s economic, health, social and environmental future. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Horgan’s NDP to bring in throne speech in B.C., Opposition wants coherent plan

Farnworth said the budget will include details of government investment in communities and infrastructure

Firefighters, including those from Cranberry volunteer department, are battling a blaze in the Nanaimo River Road area. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Dwelling destroyed, two taken to hospital after Nanaimo River Road blaze

Firefighers arrived to find dwelling and garage fully engulfed in flame at property south of Nanaimo

People walk past the Olympic rings in Whistler, B.C., Friday, May 15, 2020. Whistler which is a travel destination for tourists around the world is seeing the effects of travel bans due to COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Adults living, working in Whistler, B.C., eligible for COVID-19 vaccine on Monday

The move comes as the province deals with a rush of COVID-19 and variant cases in the community

Most Read