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Tofino Housing Corporation asks for portion of town’s MRDT funds

Tofino’s hotels and resorts collect a 3 per cent Municipal and Regional District Tax from visitors
THC boardmember Melody McLorie and municipal councillor Coun. Duncan McMaster celebrated the start of construction on a 14-unit affordable housing development at 700 Sharp Road in February, 2021. (Westerly file photo)

The Tofino Housing Corporation is hoping to get a chunk of the district’s hotel room tax funds to put towards its pursuit of residential affordability.

Tofino’s hotels and resorts currently collect a 3 per cent Municipal and Regional District Tax from visitors. That money has traditionally gone towards marketing the town to potential tourists, however the provincial government expanded the tax’s eligible spending in 2018 to include affordable housing projects.

In an April 27 presentation to council, THC executive director Ian Scott said the corporation is requesting 0.35 per cent of the 3 per cent MRDT funds, leaving 2.65 per cent remaining for tourism marketing, or other pursuits, noting the district has looked into using MRDT funds on a wastewater treatment facility.

“I recognize that this is being thrown into the mix as part of an active community discussion and consultation with the tourism sector around how to use the MRDT resources,” Scott said.

The Tofino Housing Corporation currently collects roughly $300,000 a year from an online accommodation tax launched in 2018 and collected by local Airbnb’s, but it has never accessed general MRDT revenue from hotels and resorts, according to the corporation’s executive director Ian Scott.

He said if the town’s MRDT stakeholders agreed to contribute the 0.35 per cent, it would boost the THC’s funding by an estimated $225,000 a year. He noted the district raised its MRDT tax from 2 to 3 per cent in 2016 to help pay for a new visitor centre at Cox Bay and, with that centre now complete, housing would be a valuable focus to shift to.

“The need for housing is significant,” he said. “Construction prices keep going up much much faster than anyone’s incomes do and so it’s going to take us more and more money to deliver below market affordable housing.”

The THC continues to work towards an 84-unit housing complex at 351 Arnet Road and officially broke ground on a 14-unit housing development at 700 Sharp Road this past spring, which Scott expects will be complete next February.

He said the THC has a 2030 strategic plan target of 150 rental units and 30 price restricted homes.

“One of the questions that we’re all asking ourselves is, ‘Is 180 enough,’” he said. “Frankly, for me, I’m not that confident that it will be the be all and end all…The long and short of this is that homes are becoming more and more unaffordable year after year and the demand is only growing.”

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Andrew Bailey

About the Author: Andrew Bailey

I arrived at the Westerly News as a reporter and photographer in January 2012.
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