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Squamish's mayor alludes to a possible new affordable housing project

Karen Elliott spoke of progress on the housing front, as well as how the pandemic affected the municipality during her annual address to the business community.

Mayor Karen Elliott hinted there may be a new provincially-backed affordable housing project on the way for Squamish during her annual address to the business community.

"We have an additional site identified for another project and we're exploring that opportunity for a modular build with BC Housing," she said during the virtual meeting on Feb. 18. "Whether we'll get that built by the end of our term is questionable."  

Elliott declined to give more details on the project when queried by audience members.

 She also said progress was being made concerning her promise of 125 new affordable housing units before the end of this council's term.  

The 76 affordable units at the Buckley Avenue project are being built and there are 64 more affordable rental units at the building permit stage, she said.

In addition, the seniors building being built by Polygon will provide over 200 units of affordable rental for seniors.  

She added it was the municipality's intent to set up a governing body for affordable housing last year, but the pandemic set back those plans. Hopefully, it will be formed this year, she said.

Elliott also spent much time recalling the municipality's response to the pandemic.

This included reviewing the tax breaks and delayed penalty that the District implemented, as well as how the town plans on spending provincial funding.She said the building permit processing times faltered because of the pandemic, and the town will be using some of those funds to help catch up on the demand for construction.  

That demand turned into a "frenzy" last year, as the District was faced with 300 building permits in 2020, up from the 200 permits in 2019.

"We are, I acknowledge, still in a kind of a pig-in-a-python place, but we're working hard to get things back on track," said Elliott.  

With respect to the upcoming budget, she said the municipality is expecting a need for a  2.7% increase in tax revenue.

Elliott said it's been tricky balancing a need to keep taxes low, while still ensuring there won't be a sudden spike in the future to make up for any reductions made now.  

"We are trying to find that balance of keeping taxes lower while also not missing out on the vital investments we do need to make to keep up with our growing community," she said.