Penticton council considering offering financial help for affordable housing projects to get off the ground

Help for affordable homes?

Penticton city council will soon discuss a potential pilot project that would see the city working with non-profits to help kickstart affordable housing projects.

At Tuesday's meeting, council will hear from city staff who recommend approving $100K be transferred from the Affordable Housing Amenity Contribution Reserve for the Affordable Housing Pilot Funding Program.

"We know the need for affordable housing is growing and one of the Official Community Plan-Housing Task Force recommendations was for the city to find new ways to support non-profit housing proponents to develop new units,” said Steven Collyer, the city’s housing and policy initiatives manager, in a press release issued Friday.

“This innovative pilot project would provide a way for us to partner with non-profits to unlock the potential for new housing, access senior government funding, and help meet council’s priority of attainable and accessible housing."

The pilot project, if approved, would last for one year and allow non-profits to to access funds from the reserve for " pre-development work to give them a better chance of success when accessing capital grants from senior levels of government."

The city currently estimates that between 172 and 286 additional subsidized housing units are needed by 2031, and right now, 162 individuals are waiting for non-market housing.

“One of the challenges we’ve heard from groups like 100 More Homes is that when applying for capital grants they need to ensure the projects are ‘shovel ready’ and that the architectural plans are in place to allow for immediate construction,” said Jamie Lloyd-Smith, the city’s social development specialist.

“We’re expecting more funding opportunities from senior levels of government this year, and funders are increasingly looking for projects that demonstrate strong partnerships. This pilot would allow our non-profits to be in a much stronger position to receive funding and build the needed housing.”

If the pilot project is green lit, it is anticipated that the $100K will "provide funding for approximately two high quality proposals based on anticipated costing for pre-development work."

"Lack of pre-development funding has been identified by 100 More Homes [local non-profit organization] partners as a challenge for non-profit housing providers to put their best foot forward with their capital grant applications to competitive provincial and federal funding streams," reads the staff report council will discuss Tuesday.

"The proposed funding pilot is an opportunity to unlock the potential of non-profit land for the affordable housing. Based on the outcomes from this one year pilot initiative, staff can incorporate learnings into future social housing targets for Penticton and finding strategic alignment in both initiatives."

Following the one-year proposed pilot, staff will collect feedback and present it to council for further contemplation of future options.

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