The City of Nelson passed the first three readings of a new bylaw that will formalize a Nelson housing committee advocating for the development of affordable housing units within the city.
City councillor Donna Macdonald said the creation of the new committee will solidify and define the relationship between housing issues in Nelson and the City.
“It means a formal recognition that housing affordability is a really critical issue in the community,” said Macdonald. “As we’ve had this ad hoc Nelson Housing Forum for about three years, which has been great but it has now moved into a more formal relationship with the City.”
The Nelson Housing Committee came at the recommendation of the Forum in the recent housing strategy.
“[We] made the recommendation last year and spent some time reviewing our mandate and our goal and we came up with a draft terms of reference that almost all the members of the forum agreed to,” said Macdonald. “That was the basis of the bylaw that was then developed.”
Unlike the housing forum where members were interested parties in the community, the committee will be formally appointed by city council.
“The meetings will still be open and people can attend, but the actual members of the committee will be formally appointed by council and we will have a bit more staff support, I hope,” said Macdonald.
While city staff will have “teeth” in implementing policy and decisions by council, the committee will advise staff on various issues related to housing.
“It’s a committee so it doesn’t really have teeth, that is really in the purview of staff and as developments come forward there is always a number of items on the table whether it is putting in a sidewalk or replacing a sewer line or including public art, it’s always a bit of a negotiation, but certainly we have more clear guidelines in place for staff now and rules about cash contributions if actually housing isn’t provided.” said Macdonald.
“One of the things we might do at some point is give council some advice on how to spend the housing reserve fund or at their request review a development proposal that includes some ideas for affordable housing and the committee could review those to see if what is proposed addresses identified needs.”
The bylaw will be adopted at a city council meeting in October.