Monday, October 29, 2012

Housing on the Block

Last week Victoria City Council voted to cut funds for affordable housing.  The vote will be considered for adoption this week and deserves a second look.  It's indicative of a problem with so many governments who see themselves as an investment bank rather than a service provider.  Governments don't collect taxes to earn good financial returns, rather they collect them to fund the services and build the assets necessary to sustaining healthy communities.  Good on those who saw that difference in the first place.  Here's my letter asking for reconsideration.

Please reverse your GPC vote to cut Victoria's housing programs.

Clearly we have made a lot of progress in generating new partnerships to expand our supply of affordable housing and new private sector projects are moving forward that will add more market rentals.  Still, the job is not finished and the private sector alone cannot meet the specialized needs of disadvantaged populations and the many who remain homeless in our city.
Victoria needs to hang on to the leverage the city can exercise through funding contributions and partnership programs.  We cannot do that through the CRD alone.  Ensuring that projects are sensitive to local concerns will still be best addressed when the city has a strong voice at the table, and that voice is strongest when we have the leverage of being a major funding partner.

Victoria does face financial challenges, just like every other municipality in Canada.  It is simply not good enough, however, to wait until other governments return to the housing field to deal with the problems we face today.  There are still homeless on our streets and projects that will be needed to house them take time and planning.  The respite of a weak economy is not a long term solution.

Likewise, the obsession with funding challenges is also short term.  Many projects initiated by yours and previous councils are moving to planning or are nearing completion.  They will add to your assessment roles and help support the services Victoria citizens expect their city to deliver and the assets you are charged with managing.

Looking for budget efficiency is important to our citizens, but it is not your only task.  Housing now and in the future is key to the healthy of our economy, our community and our citizens.  It is critical that Victoria remain committed to that agenda by ensuring the resources and the influence the city exercises through our own programs are supported.

Please make sure that the good work we have started as a community does not stall and rethink the funding cuts supported at committee.

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