I really appreciate the opportunity to share information and my perspective on community issues via this Council Column. Kudos to the new Nelson Star editor for continuing this tradition.
That said, I have to admit it is always a struggle to pick a community topic to focus on. Council spends a great deal of time reviewing feedback from community consultations, reading reports from expert consultants, legal, professional, technical and financial.
Often, reports and budgets include facts and figures from the past decades and provide a forecast into the future. This information is provided so that we can make informed decisions. The more we learn, the more questions we have.
Staff are extremely helpful and often make our job easier by directing our attention to Nelson’s Official Community Plan, which really is the guiding document and vision for the future of our community.
“It is intended to form the basis for regulatory land use bylaws, capital expenditure programming and to provide guidance for private and public agencies and individuals.”
If you want to become more familiar with the Official Community Plan it can be found at nelson.ca/ocp.
My experience has been that our city staff are dedicated, innovative and committed to a level of excellence and work ethic that means taxpayers are not only receiving great value for every tax dollar, staff are also encouraged and expected to find and report new ways to do their job better.
Food Policy Council an effective group
I am pleased to report that our regional partner — the District of Central Kootenay — has launched a project to create a regional Food Policy Council for the Central Kootenay:
“This project aims to devise a made-in-the-Kootenays model of a Food Policy Council that will more effectively link and support food systems initiatives across the RDCK.
“From social service agencies addressing hunger, to farming, from economic development to education — residents of the region will determine, which model of council will best serve our communities.
“Once established, the Central Kootenay Food Policy Council will enable effective and regular communications between local government, food initiatives, farming groups and other organizations and individuals engaged in the food system.
“This will help to shift the work on food systems in the region to more strategic, effective and efficient efforts, since it will be easier to identify redundant initiatives and to create effective partnerships.”
According to the 2014 City of Nelson Food Security Assessment, “West Kootenay residents spend $266,000,000 on food annually. Only an estimated five per cent of that is produced locally.
“With 95 per cent of grocery dollars leaving the region, clearly there is viable economic opportunity in the local food production industry.”
Affordable housing a priority
The lack of affordable housing remains a primary focus of this council. There is a housing crisis in Nelson, throughout British Columbia and right across Canada.
This critical lack of affordable housing has been 22 years in the making. In 1994 Revenue Canada eliminated general capital gains on most types of assets.
It is generally believed that this change slowed the investment and development of rental housing in Canada.
Couple this with the fact that the level of general social assistance and disability payments have not kept up with inflation, while the cost of housing has risen multiple times faster than inflation and we have a recipe for a crisis.
The good news is that Canadians have given the federal government a strong mandate to fix this problem. For the first time in decades our federal government is developing a National Housing Policy to address this issue.
Our provincial government is investing $855 million to increase the supply of affordable rental housing across British Columbia. This funding will be directed to the acquisition of existing rental buildings in the private market as well as the construction of approximately 4,900 new affordable rental units.
In Nelson, those most in need of quality, low-cost rental housing include young people, single-parent families, people with disabilities and the growing cohort of seniors on fixed incomes.
Nelson has two groups that the city is supporting to receive B.C. Housing funding. We should be hearing very shortly if these applicants have been successful.
The city is also working with Habitat for Humanity to identify suitable lots for development of affordable family housing.
Nelson’s Affordable Housing Committee, council and staff are working to identify more incentives that could be provided that would encourage purpose built rental housing and secondary suits.
I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the staff at Nelson Community Services, Anderson Gardens, and Nelson CARES for all the work they do day in and day out to provide safe and secure housing for the people of Nelson… Many thanks!