Crews work to clear the lot at the southeast corner of Renfrew Street and King George in Lake Cowichan. Town planner says upwards of 172 new housing units will be required at the Lake by 2025. (Kathryn Swan photo)

Crews work to clear the lot at the southeast corner of Renfrew Street and King George in Lake Cowichan. Town planner says upwards of 172 new housing units will be required at the Lake by 2025. (Kathryn Swan photo)

Lake Cowichan council at odds with CVRD’s housing needs assessment

Data featured ‘significant errors and unsupportable conclusions’

Lake Cowichan officials believe more housing is needed than what was recommended by consultants hired by the Cowichan Valley Regional District in a needs assessment recently presented to council.

While town council received the Housing Needs Assessment of January 2021 prepared by the Cowichan Valley Regional District, they only did so during their April 27 council meeting as amended by a report prepared by the Town Planning Department.

The CVRD report showed a need for 43 new houses in Lake Cowichan by 2025, while Lake Cowichan’s planner calculated 172.

In a memo to Chief Administrative Officer Joe Fernandez town planner James Van Hemert outlined the differing conclusions between the Housing Needs Assessment and the Town of Lake Cowichan data.

Van Hemert’s memo said he’d reviewed the HNA data report and the related documents and “discovered significant errors and unsupportable conclusions” leading him to sound the alarm.

Disputed was the population projections for Lake Cowichan, upon which all of the housing percentage allocations are based.

“Subsequently, I provided to CVRD and the consultants a recommended scenario based on our current BC assessment data for the number of households and our own projection for population based on local knowledge of development in the ‘pipeline’, available infrastructure, and most recent growth rates,” he wrote. “Our data, analysis and conclusions were rejected.”

Having inaccurate information in the report puts the town at a disadvantage, according to the planner.

“Accepting the HNA data and conclusions places the town at a disadvantage in seeking any affordable housing funds or projects, it provides incorrect information to developers seeking to provide affordable housing in accordance with Official Community Plan policy, and it simply lacks credibility,” Van Hemert wrote.

Town council agreed.

“I just wondered what we can do when they were given our information to correct their misinformation that they weren’t going to change this?” Councillor Kristine Sandhu asked during the April 27 council meeting. “That’s disturbing to me. We know our community, our staff knows our community and I really struggle with just saying OK well thank you we’re not correcting it.”

Chief Administrative Officer Joe Fernandez said Van Hemert had been working on that very issue.

“They’ve gone back and forth. But at the end of the day, the consultant refused to agree with our contract planner and I think it’s kind of sad that we put out something for tender, we agreed to go with the CVRD on this particular project and our input meant nothing,” Fernandez said.

Council vowed to keep pressing for an accurate representation of the town’s needs.

“Personally I would love to see you take this back to the regional district and show them that council has unanimously adopted this resolution and see where that conversation goes,” said Mayor Bob Day, of the amended report.

“Given the 2021 census is coming, I would hope it will show a true need for housing as we move forward,” said the town’s CVRD representative, councillor Tim McGonigle. “Given that, I would most certainly follow your direction and champion the implementation of our planner’s input at the Regional District at your request. That’s my job and I’m happy to do whatever you direct me to do.”

affordable housingLake Cowichan