The Cowichan Valley Regional District is providing more detailed plans on its website about the upcoming two referendums on affordable housing and water supply and management.
If both of the referendums, which will take place along with municipal elections on Oct. 20, are passed, the total cost to taxpayers would be more than $1.5 million per year.
The website points out that local governments are increasingly playing a leading role in solving the province’s ongoing housing crisis.
The district is proposing an affordable housing initiative that would cost a maximum of $765,000 per year, which would see the CVRD’s taxpayers pay $3.87 on $100,000 of the assessed values of their properties.
Of the $765,000 each year, $500,000 would be committed directly to seed funding for the Cowichan Housing Association to help kick-start affordable housing projects in the district, and would be known as the Housing Trust Fund.
That funding would be used to match non-profit housing ideas with suitable land, find developers to build the housing, and secure grants from senior levels of government to help make the idea a reality.
The target users of these projects would be low to moderate income households, including families with children, lone parent families, singles and seniors.
According to the website, another $138,000 would be dedicated to ensuring housing projects succeed through comprehensive project assessments, up-to-date data collected to justify need and demand, developing new partnerships and preventing housing loss for the region’s most vulnerable residents.
As well, $127,000 would be used for overhead costs required to administer the service, including CVRD administration costs.
The CHA would be accountable to the CVRD and the community through approved annual work plans, with requirements for annual reporting of results.
For each housing initiative, the CHA would issue a call for proposals, with an approval process that includes criteria to ensure regional priorities are met.
As for the water referendum, drinking water and watershed management have consistently been identified as priority issues by residents of the CVRD, and global warming and other factors continue to severely impact the district’s water supplies.
There are numerous water systems in the Valley, including 19 run by the CVRD, and they currently mostly deal with their own issues independent of each other.
The CVRD is proposing to establish a water service function that would take a regional and collaborative approach to local drinking water and watershed management issues.
The CVRD wants to tax $750,000 annually to establish the service, which would see taxpayers contribute $3.79 per $100,000 of assessed property value.
The website says that of the $750,000, $494,000 would be dedicated to the implementation of integrated water and watershed protection strategies, monitoring and data gathering, leveraging grants and partnership programs with other levels of governments, stewardship groups and others to meet objectives.
The remaining $256,000 would be used to build internal technical capacity to integrate water management into environmental planning, land-use decisions, education and outreach.
Without a clear mandate, CVRD staff currently have limited time and resources to provide support to region-wide water and watershed management.
If the water referendum passes, the service would enable the development of specific watershed management plans that would characterize risks to water supply and water quality.
This would provide information for land-use planning and determining growth patterns, as well as information on infrastructure and water utility needs across the region.
Where an existing or future risk is identified, prioritized actions would be designed to address those issues, such as flood protection or emergency water supply plans.
CVRD CAO Brian Carruthers recently told North Cowichan’s council that drinking water and watershed management challenges are not unique to one community or one watershed, but exist throughout the regional district.
“We have a fragmented approach to these issues right now, with all the water systems doing their own thing and this is not good enough,” he said to council.
“Water quantity and quality are at risk in all parts of the region, so more collaboration is needed between all the partners. If we don’t cooperate now on water issues, the cost of our inaction will be substantial 10 years from now.”