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Castlegar seeks $14.6 million to speed up housing

Castlegar is applying for a federal grant worth up to $14.6 million to help narrow the gap in the city’s housing needs.

City planning manager Meeri Durand noted a recent report found Castlegar requires another 464 units by 2026 to keep pace with demand.

If their application is successful, funds from Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s $4 billion housing accelerator fund would support the creation of 308 units over that time, reflecting the units needed beyond the number already in the works.

While most housing grants in BC and Canada are for development of units, Durand says they don’t address housing systems and infrastructure required to support them, which is the purpose of this money, open to all local governments and First Nations.

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However, to be eligible the city has to commit to supply targets and a three-year action plan with at least five initiatives to support housing starts. The areas the city has identified are things that would happen anyway, but the federal funding would speed them up by allowing the city to hire consultants or contractors.

“What would change is it would accelerate the pace at which staff are provided opportunity to pursue these initiatives,” Durand said.

The areas include: infrastructure assessments in targeted growth areas like downtown and the Columbia Avenue corridor; rewriting the city’s development cost charges bylaw and community amenity contribution policy; a regulatory review of parking needs and demands; helping to register and legalize existing secondary suites; and demolishing the Eremenko block to make way for a mixed-use art gallery and affordable housing complex.

About 10 per cent of the funds would be directed to implement a housing action plan, 35 per cent for housing initiatives, 30 per cent for housing-related infrastructure and 25 per cent for community amenities.

“This grant opportunity provides a lot of flexibility to local governments so long as it meets the criteria set out by the federal government, which is different and unique to a grant intake,” Durand said.

Once the gap of 464 units has been addressed, Durand said the city’s housing needs should start correcting themselves, as only 20 to 25 more units would be required in each of the ensuing five years.

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