Terrace council wants more housing

Council worried that population growth will outstrip places to live

HOUSING in Terrace is now so tight that the new Blue Fin Sushi Bar restaurant on Lakelse Ave. delayed opening because employees had nowhere to live.

“I was looking for a house with four bedrooms for my employees,” said manager Cindy Palmer. After a little over a month she finally found a house that the seller agreed to rent to the four workers.

A drummer from the Blue Fin house band in Smithers had a family connection here, without which Palmer’s search may have dragged out even longer.

This was one telling example that came up during a special council meeting Feb. 20 aimed at easing what Councillor Stacey Tyers called a housing shortage “bursting at the seams”.

City development services director David Block and Keith Goodwin from the city’s housing committee went over eight recommendations contained in the latter’s housing action plan.

Council discussed the possibility of enticing developers to buy city-owned land on which to build multi-family housing by suggesting that 10 per cent of the units be set aside for low income families, elders and people with disabilities.

Development projects might then qualify for subsidies through the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) and BC Housing, Block said.

The city has land on Haugland and Park currently zoned for multi-family development, and rezoning another property on Olson wouldn’t be an issue, council was told.

Based on the housing committee presentation, council could accelerate several housing action plan initiatives this year as opposed to the original 2014 timeframe.

One suggestion is expanding the Tuck Ave. seniors housing complex and councillor Brian Downie called for a steering committee to be formed as soon as possible.

Providing living quarters for seniors through the expansion of the residence located at 4623 Tuck Ave. would in turn free up space in existing buildings, said Lynne Christiansen, acting mayor in David Pernarowski’s absence.

Several council members were also mystified as to why more housing developers haven’t shown up, saying that while construction costs may be 10 to 20 per cent higher here than elsewhere, the cost of land is lower.

It could be that investors still aren’t convinced that the Terrace economy will stay up, said Lynne Christiansen.

The possibility that low rental prices in Terrace might deter developers was also discussed.

“I am not going to encourage really high rent,” Tyers said, echoing one of the key points in the original 2009 Housing Terrace Report to “explore, develop and manage affordable housing units.”

An important part of the current action plan is to prioritize “the housing needs of the mentally ill and individuals with addictions, seniors, individuals with developmental disabilities and youth at risk.”

Housing committee chair Keith Goodwin called for a one-day symposium be held this year to bring together developers and financiers. A workshop on non-profit housing is also in the works.