Unclear if Squamish will hit climate and rental housing targets

Climate change staffer yet to be hired

As Squamish declares a climate crisis and faces a zero per cent housing vacancy rate, it's unclear if the District will be hitting its carbon reduction and affordable housing goals.

The municipality is off-track with respect to creating and adopting a greenhouse gas reduction plan.

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With respect to affordable housing, rezoning approvals have allowed for about 450 affordable rental units — but the District has no control over if and when the units are ultimately built.

This may make it challenging to meet the mayor's promise to have 125 new affordable rental housing units built by 2022.

These were some of the takeaways staff presented during an update to Squamish council during its meeting on July 9.

The update highlighted how the municipality was progressing toward some of the targets it outlined in its strategic plan, a guiding document that highlights council's major goals.

Months ago, District council made climate change a major priority in the plan and allocated funds to hire a climate change staffer who would come up with a plan to reduce fossil fuel emissions in town.

Talks of including the staffer were highlighted in January budget talks.

Since then, no one has been hired to take the position, according to District CAO Linda Glenday.

"We have a climate emergency and this has been in the strategic plan since Jan. 23, when we launched it to the public," said Mayor Karen Elliott. "This is a little bit disappointing to see we don't even have the person even in the pipeline."

Glenday said it may be possible to at least get the data for the emissions reduction plan by the end of this year, even if the full plan may not be done by that point.

"So we are behind in terms of hiring a position that was targeted to do this work," said Glenday. "This position was also contemplated to put out [a Request For Proposals] and hiring consultants to do that baseline data work. What we're doing now to pivot is we're going out to get that consultant concurrently with hiring that position, and the timing ... shifts, so that we at the very least get the data and that ... can get us back on track, at least for the data."

 

Coun. Jenna Stoner had some reservations about the idea.

"I do have concerns with hiring a consultant to do the data gathering and passing it off to somebody else and doing that concurrently," said Stoner.

"I appreciate the optimism of staff, but I think that 2019 deadline for data gathering is optimistic at best."

There appears to be some forward momentum with respect to another environmental target, however.

Glenday said someone has been hired to fill a part-time education position to inform the public about the upcoming proposed plastic reduction. That reduction aims to heavily reduce or eliminate the use of check-out plastic bags and straws.

In terms of the affordable housing units, staff said that the units are on the way, though it's unclear when exactly they'll arrive.

Director of planning Jonas Velaniskis said as a result of rezoning approvals for various developments, 450 affordable rental units are anticipated.

These have been secured via either a land development or housing agreements, Velaniskis said.

A big portion of this comes from the Polygon seniors development slated for Third Avenue, he said.

Under One Roof and the Buckley project are also big contributors to the affordable stock.

Elliott asked if the units will be built by 2022.

"They're rezoned, but we don't have any control over when they get built," said Glenday. "We will continue to track that."

Velaniskis said the District only has control over the administrative process.

"We prioritize those projects, but...we are very much dependent on the private parties building them — or in some cases, public entities building them," he said.

 

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