An artistic rendering of Tofino’s proposed 84-unit affordable housing project. (Tofino council agenda image)

Affordable housing project advances in Tofino

Proposal includes 72 units and three duplex townhouses with secondary suites.

A development being clamoured for by those affected by Tofino’s housing crisis recently took another step towards fruition as the town’s municipal council again endorsed an 84-unit residential housing project on district-owned land.

Council gave first reading to a zoning amendment on March 10 that would allow the Tofino Housing Corporation and Catalyst Developments to develop two, three-storey, apartment buildings with a combined 72 units as well as three duplex townhouses, each with secondary suites—12 units—at 351 Arnet Rd.

The apartments would be rented at below market rates and only available to applicants who fit under specified household income thresholds, according to a report presented to council by district planner Peter Thicke.

Studio apartment monthly rents will be set at $375-$875 per month and limited to applicants with household incomes under $38,500. One-bedroom units will rent from $375-$1,100 a month and be available to applicants with household incomes under $48,500. Two-bedroom units will rent from $570-$1,350 for applicants with household incomes under $59,400 and three-bedroom units will rent from $660-$1,950 and for applicants with household incomes under $85,800.

Prior to approving first reading of the rezoning amendment, which they did unanimously, council heard from the Tofino-Long Beach chamber of commerce executive director Jen Dart who said she was speaking on behalf of the chamber’s board and over 325 businesses that hope to see the project realized.

Dart said the chamber recently met with local business owners and “heard about the desperate need” for housing.

“Many of them, not just the smallest of businesses but larger ones as well, simply can’t continue to operate under these conditions; these are staffing shortages related to housing shortages,” she said.

“Of course, it’s not just businesses, but local families that need more suitable housing in the community. You’ve all heard the stories of babies being born to families living in staff accommodation because they can’t find anywhere else to live…Individuals who want to make Tofino their home and represent our volunteers and leaders of the future also can’t find anywhere to live. It’s our opinion that a mix of housing is needed to address Tofino’s housing challenges and this development is a key part of that solution. So, again, I would urge you on behalf of our organization to move this development forward as quickly as possible.”

The project is being led by the Tofino Housing Corporation, which lists the District of Tofino as its sole shareholder and will be managed and operated by Catalyst Developments.

“It’s taken us a long time to get to this point and for some people in the community too long, but sometimes things do take time,” said the THC’s interim executive director, Ian Scott. “I don’t think what we’re doing on below market affordable housing is the only thing that needs to happen…All the evidence, not only from this community, but from communities across B.C. and particularly in resort communities, is that housing is a challenge that needs to be worked on and needs to be worked on continuously.”

He suggested rising rental costs and low availability are causing employee shortages at local businesses and leading to overcrowded staff accommodations as well as an increase in campsites being used as housing within the district.

He added that council’s endorsement of the project would help the corporation’s chances at securing a grant from BC Housing.

“We’re at the place where, with the rezoning, we’ll be able to proceed through the process on the community housing fund with BC Housing,” he said.

“Through the next funding call that we all expect to come within a few months, we’ll be able to secure that large investment in this community in housing that allows us to deliver significantly below market rents as well as some close-to-market rents; a nice mix of rents within the buildings…Without the rezoning, that investment is not going to come to this community.”

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