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Cowichan moving closer to affordable housing solutions

Can’t afford to live in one of these places? The new Cowichan Housing Association is being formed to find and create a place you can. - Andrew Leong/file
Can’t afford to live in one of these places? The new Cowichan Housing Association is being formed to find and create a place you can.
— image credit: Andrew Leong/file

Cowichan is preparing to tackle affordable housing in earnest with the creation of a Cowichan Housing Association.

Linden Collette at Social Planning Cowichan says once it's established, the organization will be responsible for offering programs, and, more importantly, creating housing projects.

"Social Planning Cowichan doesn't do development — we do research and planning — but we agreed that we'd nurture this housing association over the next couple of years to get it running," Collette explained.

The association would then be responsible for creating and maintaining affordable housing developments in the community, but would also offer programs such as Ready to Rent.

"This is a six-week class that teaches first-time renters, or those who have been bad renters in the past and therefore don't have any references, how to be a good tenant," Collette explained. "At the end of the six weeks, they get a certificate, and in Victoria, B.C. Housing and some private landlords are now accepting that instead of references."

Collette hopes to get that piece going quickly, although it will take up to two years to fully establish a working housing association.

Adding momentum, though, is the recent infusion of cash from the Cowichan Valley Regional District.

CVRD directors have approved providing $37,800 in 2012 and in 2013 toward establishing the Cowichan Housing Association, with any leftover funds going to a housing trust fund.

"We got the idea of the trust fund from talking to folks in the Capital Regional District, because that's what they did to develop affordable housing," Collette said.

And those funds can also be used to leverage more cash from government.

"We don't want to spend two years creating an association while not doing anything for people — people need this now," Collette added. "So we're also moving forward with a steering committee, and policy, and looking at short-term things we can do in the interim before we can start building housing."

That includes working with landlords, educating tenants, and looking at building projects that are on the horizon to see if there are ways to partner on affordable housing options.

"As much as people want to move forward quickly, and I certainly want to move forward quickly, we need to move forward in a really good way," Collette said.

She encourages any Cowichanians interested in assisting in forming the association to contact Social Planning Cowichan at 250-746-1004 ext. 250 or info@socialplanningcowichan.org.

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