Homeless census planned

The city is preparing to tally its homeless population as part of a larger study being undertaken to determine housing policy priorities.

The city is preparing to tally its homeless population as part of a larger study being undertaken to determine housing policy priorities.

Terrace’s housing crunch, which has seen spiking rental costs and an official vacancy for apartments of zero per cent, is causing concern that low income residents might have difficulty finding a place to live.

Determining the number of homeless individuals currently living in Terrace is one facet of a $25,000 housing needs assessment the city plans on completing by early spring.

“It’s a foundation stone that anyone coming to look at housing, whether it’s government or private developers, can utilize to get a better idea of which sector needs this or that kind of housing and where the pressures really are,” said Keith Goodwin, who is the chair of the Terrace housing committee.

“It’s going to give us a much better idea of what is actually involved in a comprehensive homeless study, and what we are going to need to do it comprehensively,” said Goodwin of the housing study.

High homeless numbers could mean that the city will place an emphasis on boosting low-income and subsided housing options in future policy decisions, said Goodwin.

Housing consultants from the lower mainland are in Terrace today until Friday to brief city officials and others leading to the homeless count taking place March 15.

The consultants will advise city staff on how to perform an effective homeless count, said Goodwin.

The city is financing the study from a $25,000 amount allocated in the 2014 budget for the housing needs assessment, $10,000 of which is a grant from the Real Estate Foundation of British Columbia.

Of that total, $2,500 has been put aside to carry out the homeless count and related costs.

A move by the city to put money into tallying the homeless strikes Ksan House Society executive director Carol Sabo as an unwise use of limited resources.

Ksan has its own plan to build affordable housing units on Haugland between Hall and Evergreen Streets just around the corner from the Ksan shelter, and Sabo feels the city could direct more time and money towards that project.

“They said they were posting today for a homelessness survey and I told them they were wasting time,” said Sabo two weeks ago. “All they have to do is take out the managers of the transition house and the shelter, Ksan Society, and one RCMP officer for coffee and they could count the homeless in fifteen minutes.”

Among several housing-related initiatives, which includes proposed changes to city bylaw to allow apartments in secondary units located on residential lots zoned R1, city council passed a motion Feb. 11 to write letters to the federal and provincial governments with a request for support in meeting low income housing needs.