No easy path on Kitimat’s affordable housing

Kitimat Council will push ahead in seeking an amended terms of reference for the Kitimat Housing Committee.

Kitimat Council will push ahead in seeking an amended terms of reference for the Kitimat Housing Committee, in an effort to form a sub-committee, specifically tasked to promote development of housing projects.

The move comes from a recent motion from Mayor Joanne Monaghan, who had asked for staff to prepare a draft terms of reference for an Affordable Housing and Housing for Persons with Disabilities committee.

The resulting report provided two options to councillors: amend the existing terms of reference for the housing committee, or create a brand new steering committee.

The debate sparked a conversation about whether or not the existing housing committee was the best group to take on the task of getting actual construction projects started.

“I’m a little torn,” said Mario Feldhoff, who would later vote with two others to table the discussion until the council could speak to housing committee representatives, a motion which ultimately failed.

Rob Goffinet was the original mover of tabling, and wanted to hear from the committee if they felt they were prepared to devote the “intense effort” to go from an advisory role to a construction role.

Edwin Empinado, who is also council’s representative on the housing committee and moved for the amending of the original committee’s terms of reference at the meeting, said that he wouldn’t favour tabling the motion because with the committee’s success in 2012 in completing a Housing Needs Assessment, nothing would be gained by waiting.

“We won’t be moving forward in solving issues in the community, if the motion is tabled,” he said.

Empinado noted that the mandate of the committee right now is not to develop projects but to investigate needs, which limits their ability to get concrete actions done.

“We cannot even access grants. We can just ask around about how many apartments are rented, how many are vacant…we cannot move on. So we need to amend, really, so they can move on and move forward in order to respond to social issues,” he added.

But Mayor Joanne Monaghan, a founding member of the committee nearly four years ago, expressed grief over the lack of progress on housing from the committee.

“I have seen very, very little happening. They say they’re going to do it but nothing ever happens and that’s one of the reasons I put this motion forward, to say that we need people who understand the building and that aspect of it,” she said. “They talk about it every month, every couple of weeks but nothing ever gets done because they haven’t really focused. We need a focus group.”

Margaret Warcup, who is the housing committee chair, said that’d it’d be unfortunate if there was to be two overlapping committees.

“To appoint two committees, our thought was, well then, who are you going to put on the other one, are we both going to be doing the same work?” said Warcup. “It needs a lot more discussion before we start another meeting.”

But she said the biggest need in housing in town is that there either needs to be a housing society or a co-op between the present non-profit societies to take the lead in getting something done.

“If we get any funding or if we borrow the monies…to do a project, you need a non-profit agency that’s going to manage that.”

She said such a society would have to be an independent board.