Part of a new federal fund created to speed up the construction of affordable housing units across Canada has been earmarked for the Capital Regional District (CRD).

On October 27, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a new Rapid Housing Initiative set to offer $1 billion for the creation of up to 3,000 permanent affordable housing units across the country.

Out of that amount, $500 million has been earmarked to be delivered through a ‘Major Cities Stream’ to municipalities that have been determined to be in serious need of housing due to severe homelessness.

One of these municipalities is the CRD, which is slated to receive $13.1 million.

The remaining $500 million will be delivered through an application-based ‘Projects Stream’, through which provinces, territories, municipalities, Indigenous governing bodies and organizations, and non-profit organizations can apply to receive a part of the funds.

Identifying projects in the CRD

CRD Board Chair Colin Plant says the authority began working to identify projects as soon as they were notified that the region had been designated to receive a portion of the funds.

“We received the information on Friday morning that the CRD had been pre-selected as one of the receiving entities, so immediately staff started the planning work,” said Plant in a phone interview with Victoria Buzz.

He says the municipality has until November 27 to present project proposals that meet the criteria for the funding set aside for the region.

This week, the CRD is inviting municipalities to present their requests for affordable housing projects that need funding.

“We want every municipality … to feel that they have a chance. It won’t be just the CRD identifying projects,” said Plant.

Thus far, the CRD has been using the $130 million earmarked through the Regional Housing First program to build up to 2,000 new housing units across southern Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands.

“With this, we’ll be able to take on some new projects and expedite some of the existing ones,” said Plant.

Homelessness in the region

The $13.1 million, however large it may seem, is not enough to fund the number of homes necessary to alleviate the region’s homelessness crisis.

Before the pandemic drove many shelters to close leaving homeless people with nowhere to go, the Point in Time Count for Greater Victoria showed that there were 1,523 homeless people living in the capital region as of March 2020. That number has undoubtedly increased since then.

According to Plant, the municipality will be able to build a minimum of 52 housing units through a $13.1 million fund.

“Unfortunately it is not going to end homelessness. We know some have more complicated needs and will need more than just affordable housing, but also housing with wraparound support,” Plant added.

At this point it is unclear whether the RHI is slated to fund supportive housing units as well as affordable homes, but the plan is to explore those options.

For their part, the CRD plans to also identify specific projects to apply for funding for through the additional $500 million ‘Projects Stream’.

Applications for federal funding to build affordable housing units will be accepted from today until December 31, 2020, and all projects must be completed within 12 months of a signed agreement. Unused funds will be re-allocated to other projects.

The RHI is specifically aimed towards developing new modular multi-unit rentals, converting non-residential buildings into affordable multi-residential homes, and rehabilitate buildings that are in disrepair into affordable housing units.

Projects that require purchasing land and buildings will also be eligible to receive these funds.

“I have no doubt we will identify projects that exceed $13.1 million,” said Plant.

“We are going to be ready for it, and it’s not like we’re starting from zero.”

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