North Cowichan might learn ways to better deal with its homeless and opioid problems from Langford, according to North Cowichan Mayor Al Siebring.
Siebring told North Cowichan’s council at a recent meeting that the latest homeless count in Langford indicated there are just eight people living on the streets in that Island community, much lower than the numbers who are homeless in North Cowichan.
He said he had a discussion with Langford Mayor Stewart Young and was told that Langford supports as many residential construction projects as possible and thousands of housing units have been constructed, or are under construction, over the past several years in the community, and many of the units are rentals.
Siebring said there are also seven housing complexes being built primarily for the First Nations community in Langford.
“Langford’s official community plan has an affordability component in which a percentage of all multi-family developments have to be expressly dedicated to subsidized affordable housing, with rent subsidies coming from senior levels of government,” he said.
“The lower income people are then integrated into the overall housing mix, rather than being set up in housing specifically built for them.”
Siebring said another spinoff of that approach is Langford is seeing a continuous increase in its tax base with all the new residential development.
He said that means that the city can increase spending on other issues and projects without having to increase taxes.
“Over the past two years, Langford has hired four new RCMP officers and seven bylaw officers to help better deal proactively with street disorder issues,” Siebring said.
“That’s an increase in spending of about $2 million without any major tax increases.”
Siebring said Langford’s homeless population is not being forced out of the community, and with all the economic activity provided by the new residential housing projects, there are a lot of economic opportunities even for unskilled workers who might otherwise be living on the street.
“I found the discussion with Mayor Young to be very interesting,” he said.