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Pemberton council wants action on affordable housing

Update on Strategy presented at COW
Time for action The Village of Pemberton Committee of the Whole discussed affordable housing on Sept. 12. Photo by Braden Dupuis

Closing in on the final year of its term, Pemberton council doesn't want to drag its feet on affordable housing.

An update on the Village of Pemberton's (VOP) 2009 Affordable Housing Strategy was presented at the Committee of the Whole (COW) on Tuesday, Sept. 12, prompting a discussion about where the village should go next.

The 2009 strategy includes 12 strategic directions — everything from policy changes that provide clear and consistent direction for staff and developers, to enhancing local partnerships.

"I would like to see us pull out some of these recommendations and see if there's any of them that can be tackled now, and then the rest go into budget discussion and the plan for 2018," said Mayor Mike Richman.

"I just don't want to see us go, 'OK, let's build a new action plan,' and 'OK, we're good for now.' I want to see us moving forward on this."

Looking at the recommendations, senior planner Lisa Pedrini noted several could be addressed during the VOP's zoning bylaw review, while others related to partnerships and advocacy could be initiated at any time.

"Really, what I think is missing is the policy piece," Pedrini said, noting that development is happening in Pemberton, but when developers ask about housing she doesn't have a hard rule around affordable housing requirements.

"I want to be able to say, 'OK, we'll take a look at this application, but I want you to know that council has this policy regarding affordable housing. This is what we require,'" she said.

"That's the missing piece... what's our ask when it comes to developers walking in the door? Because they're coming in in droves."

The VOP has a good sense of what types of housing are needed, Pedrini added, but updating the 2009 strategy's background report would help solidify what the policy should be.

"I would prefer to develop a policy that's informed by background research," she said.

In the end, the COW passed a recommendation that council direct staff to update the 2009 strategy's background report with current info around community housing need, supply and demand.

In a separate resolution, the COW supported exploring options around zoning, partnering with local service groups, encouraging higher density developments and more.

The goal is to have the updated background report presented to council as soon as possible, with official council resolutions based on the new numbers to follow. The VOP will also engage in high-level conversations with partners like the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District, Whistler Blackcomb and the Lions Club to gauge opportunities and see if there's any appetite for immediate action.

Richman said the urgency stems from two things: the development Pemberton is seeing and the new provincial government in Victoria.

"That's my concern, is that the developers are here now. Let's hit 'em now. And the provincial government is mindful that now is the time, so that's where the impatience is coming from — I don't want to miss these opportunities," he said.

"So I think the message is loud and clear, all with the caveat and the understanding that you guys have a very busy department: I would like creativity through the (Chief Administrative Officer) to the staff to find ways to action whatever we can now."

The full 2009 strategy can be found online at:

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