Nelson city council is taking steps to deal with the city’s ongoing problems around affordable housing.
“It’s really the lower end rentals that I think is still in quite critical need,” said councillor Donna Macdonald about the city’s affordable housing situation.
The City introduced a new Affordable Housing Policy at a council meeting last month.
The policy works in co-ordination with the Affordable Housing Strategy, the Official Community Plan and the Path to 2040.
“We needed that guidance so that when, for example, staff are negotiating with a developer that they have some guidance around what affordable housing they should be looking for as a contribution, whether in real units or a cash contribution,” said Macdonald.
Where appropriate, the City encourages developers to incorporate affordable housing into their projects.
Often if the project is unable to include secondary suites or other affordable housing options, council and staff will ask the developer to make a contribution to the affordable housing fund.
“It can be used for a range of things that help create affordable housing. It could be forgiveness for permit fees for the development of some affordable housing, it could theoretically be used to buy land for affordable housing, it could be used in a time when we need it to update our affordable housing inventory so we’re current on what the situation is in the community,” Macdonald said. “It really is anything that relates to the creation of non-profit affordable housing, it can’t be used for a for-profit enterprise.”
Council had discussed the possibility of waiving development related fees but Macdonald said it is a “false notion.”
“If you waive water and sewer fees somebody else in the system has to pay those fees. To actually calculate that would be really complicated, so instead of waiving those fees we’ve gone the route to pay for the fees instead of waiving them,” she said.
While the policy does give direction to staff to seek contributions to the Affordable Housing Fund, Macdonald said they didn’t specify on dollar amounts.
“When you are in those negotiations, a lot of things are on the table,” she said. “Maybe there is a new intersection or road improvements needed or some public art or some green features that the City also sees as an important contribution to the community. There are usually a lot of things on the table so to put a dollar amount on one of them would kind of defeat the purpose.”