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Tofino and Ucluelet score provincial funding to streamline housing approvals

ACRD will receive $142,686, Ucluelet $160,031, Port Alberni $237,804 and Tofino $161,467
Local leaders cheered the progress of an affordable housing project in Tofino last year. (Westerly file photo)

By Alexandra Mehl, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter HA-SHILTH-SA

On Jan. 18, the provincial government announced funding allocated to mid-Vancouver Island communities to help “implement new provincial legislation” to streamline the delivery of homes.

Of the communities throughout Nuu-chah-nulth territory, Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District will receive $142,686, Ucluelet will receive $160,031, Port Alberni will receive $237,804 and Tofino will receive $161,467.

The funding is intended to improve the back-end process with planning, development and reporting, hiring staff and consultants, to help local governments streamline housing approvals, according to a recent media release.

“Affordable housing is one of the issues I hear about most often from community members, and one of our government’s biggest areas of collaboration with local government partners,” said Mid Island-Pacific Rim MLA Josie Osborne through the release. “This funding will help support local governments in our region to continue working hard to improve approvals processes, update policies and bylaws, and help create more homes faster for people.”

Tofino mayor Dan Law said the struggle for affordable housing has been a priority for decades.

According to the 2023 Vital Signs Report, the value of homes and strata properties in the area increased by over 20 per cent in recent years, while affordable rental units have only become more sparse.

“We’re seeing big changes to short-term rental regulations, big changes to housing, changes to zoning for many communities,” Law said. “It’s one small help in a larger goal of providing attainable and affordable housing.”

He added that Tofino’s district’s staff will be bringing options, such as a housing needs assessment and zoning bylaw reviews, to council soon.

“We’re embarking on a very ambitious zoning review and rewrite at the moment,” he said, adding that the district’s zoning needs to be updated to accommodate housing needs in the area.

The provincial legislation allows “up-front zoning,” reads a 2023 press release announcing the proposed changes.

“The legislation will require local governments to shift their planning process to an up-front framework, pre-zone land to meet their housing needs and reduce the use of current rezoning processes,” it continued.

The provincial government has allocated $51 million from the 2023 Budget to 188 municipalities and districts across the province to meet the new legislation requirements.

Law said Tofino has also applied for the provincial Housing Accelerator fund, which will directly produce homes.

Tofino has already been working toward providing more housing in the area. In the spring many residents will be able to move into two new apartment buildings. With the addition of 72 new units, Law noted that Tofino Housing Corporation and Catalyst are now responsible for housing 10 per cent of the town’s population.

“I think this funding is a demonstration of a really careful, effective, and directed government policy and funding,” said Law.

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