Regional District of North Okanagan directors have denied a Vernon affordable housing advocate’s request to waive three fees for conditions of water service pertaining to his latest two projects.
Directors claim they have to deny Jed Astin’s request because he operates a for-profit company so therefore they can’t waive the fees.
“It’s illegal,” explained David Sewell, chief financial officer for RDNO following debate among directors following Astin’s presentation.
“Through the Local Government Act as a regional district, and the community charter as municipalities, we are barred from providing direct assistance in this case. We don’t have the ability to provide that waiver.”
Astin presented directors with a petition in support of his request to waive development cost charges (DCCs), water service construction fee and installation of fire hydrants for affordable housing projects on 37th and 28th Avenues in Vernon.
In his presentation package, Astin said he developed the first rooming house in Vernon, along with numerous present affordable housing buildings that have received “city and community support.”
He called the conditions of water service charges for both of his new affordable housing projects “not supportive.”
“That’s given the regional district’s growth strategy for housing,” said Astin.
“The board is encouraged to review such charges accordingly, including admission of no DCCs applicable, and a more appropriate fee for the change of water service connection to a building.”
Astin was joined for his presentation by a number of people who live in his affordable housing projects, and by supporter Nicholas Stodin, who disagreed with Sewell’s contention the request was illegal.
“There’s an exception in the Local Government Act where such conditions are allowed and conditions which it’s not allowed,” said Stodin.
Lumby Mayor Kevin Acton said during discussion that such a request should go directly to the City of Vernon where the projects are located, and that regional neighbours should not be put in a position to waive such requests.
“We have our own challenges with affordable housing, and we need to spend our money there,” said Acton.
“We should not be hamstrung with being billed for affordable housing outside our community. If this company needs help from Lumby they can come to Lumby and ask for help. We’d be more than happy to support building affordable housing in our town.”