By EVAN MATTHEWS
The Village is taking the next step to address affordable housing in Valemount, as the Village appointed members to the Affordable Housing Committee.
Eight local residents responded to the Village’s invitation for committee members, including Jennifer Applebaum, Riette Kenkel, Shirley Mackillop, Korie Marshall, Andru McCracken, Rashmi Narayan, Shirley Sander and Keith Shepherd.
A Village councillor will be named to the committee later, as per the requirements for a committee in the Community Charter.
“We hope the committee will forward to council recommendations for realistic and attainable results,” Mayor Jeannette Townsend told The Goat.
Though similar to a focus group created roughly a year ago, there is a difference.
The original “working focus group” was established by Council to be an advisory body to staff only, according to the Village’s Economic Development Officer, Silvio Gislimberti.
“The committee will start meeting on January 18, 2017 by reviewing the Terms of Reference,” says Gislimberti. “It’s up to the committee to set priorities and timelines.”
Focus working groups can provide citizen input on a particular issue, he says, and they are independent of council and all its functions. Working Groups do not vote on issues, nor do they report to council, according to Gislimberti.
The most recent committee, appointed by Council on December 13, 2016, is a select committee of Council, Gislimberti says.
Select Committees pertain to a specific project and span the life of that project, he says, as Council appoints members to Select Committees and at least one member of the Select Committee must be a council member.
Though the Village is looking for solutions to the affordable housing issue, one thing the Village cannot do, is subsidize housing with taxpayer money, according to the Mayor.
The number of vacant properties in Valemount has been rising over the past number of years along with property value, so to find a vacant and affordable home has become increasingly difficult for some residents, and the ski hill announcement, exacerbated the issue.
The Mayor also went on record, previously, to say though the cost of housing has gone up in Valemount, affordable housing was an issue even when cost was lower, and to her, the issue is equally about low income.
The objective of the affordable housing committee, according to the Village, is to assess the housing situation and identify new housing options for seniors, students, young families and a new workforce that may be attracted to Valemount.
Affordable housing committee members will provide advice, information, and make recommendations to the Village Council, according to the Village.
The Village had advertised in local media inviting people to volunteer as committee members in respect to the village’s affordable housing opportunities.