Win-win possible on social housing

Comments by members of both council and the school board left me considering how a proverbial ‘win-win’ opportunity might be created.

To the Editor,

With both municipal and school board elections on the horizon, comments by members of both council and the school board left me considering how a proverbial ‘win-win’ opportunity might be created.

School trustee Nelson Allen recently declared his opposition to disposing of excess school property, saying that the buildings will be needed as enrolment expands.

Yet the City of Nanaimo’s own demographic study (http://tinyurl.com/cp3fp5b) shows the school age cohort to be the smallest growth component through to 2031. Nanaimo is becoming a city of mature adults and retirees, not young families.

Rather than building new and expensive ‘supportive housing’ on the extremely valuable city property on Uplands Drive, would it not be wise to use existing vacant infrastructure?

Mount Benson Elementary school on Jingle Pot Road has been closed for more than three years and is unlikely to reopen. Nor is it likely ever to be utilized for ‘community use’, as the school board has suggested.

Yet heating, repairs maintenance and insurance continue to eat at the school board’s budget and our tax dollars.

Why not convert the school to ‘supportive housing’ and sell the more valuable property on Uplands for residential development, allowing the profits to be used for both the conversion and ongoing costs of supportive housing?

It would seem to me that everybody wins.

Supportive housing is placed in a more suitable location, idle assets are put back into productive use and costs to the taxpayer are mitigated on both sides of the equation.

Randy O’Donnell

Nanaimo