The Cowichan Valley Regional District has formally activated its new housing function by approving a three-year legal agreement with the Cowichan Housing Association (CHA).

Last October voters approved a referendum providing an annual contribution of $765,000 to used to do basic research and recommending action around the affordable housing issue in the Cowichan Valley. The CHA had been identified as the agency that would do the work on behalf of the regional district.

The funding allocation is split into three basic categories of activity:

Housing Fund Program

to help housing developers and community groups in developing affordable housing
to build affordable rental housing stock as well as shelters
to enhance community contributions and partnerships in order to leverage funding resources and in-kind services
for housing emergencies due to an influx of demand (evictions) or a sudden loss of supply (fire or floods) to bridge the gap between provincial/Red Cross funding and the demand.

Operating Programs

Operating programs including research and community outreach for the purpose of planning, housing development coordination and housing loss prevention.

Maintenance &
Administration

development and management of governance structure
financial management
human resource management
preparation and presentation of the Annual Report/Work Plan
general overhead costs including but not limited to office supplies, rent, utilities and taxes

During the first year of the agreement the CVRD will deduct the cost of the referendum vote, which was about $100,000, and will charge an annual two percent management fee against the fund.

The CHA is a local non-profit organization focussed on housing issues in Cowichan. The operation is overseen by a volunteer board of directors. The CHA recently hired a new executive director, John Horn, who is a Registered Professional Planner and had recently worked as the City of Nanaimo’s Social Planner.

Paid staff complement includes administrative co-ordinator Morgan Saddington.

Horn said in an interview that upon approval of the agreement by the CVRD board he expects funds would be moving within 30 days to cover the annual contribution for CHA Maintenance and Administration, back-dated to January of this year to cover work already undertaken in setting up the function and negotiating the agreement.

The CHA presented a budget proposal in January that was approved by the CVRD Regional Services Committee.

The approved budget included $112,000 for management and administration. $138,000 is earmarked for services, including creating a housing research and information hub, proposal and project development assistance and strategic planning, outreach and community capacity development.

A Housing Trust Fund of $500,00 (less referendum costs this year) will become available in August in each year of the agreement, that will be released only after formal approval by the CVRD board. This fund is meant for three main areas: rental capitol housing fund, project development fund and emergency contingency fund.

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