UPDATED: Tofino receives $500,000 for housing project

District hopes to add 50 new housing units.

Tofino has received $500,000 to design the first phase of an affordable housing project that the district is working on with the Tofino Bible Fellowship and Tofino Housing Corporation to create 50 new housing units in the community.

The district signed a memorandum of understanding with the Bible Fellowship last winter and Tofino Mayor Josie Osborne said the recent funding infusion is exciting for two key reasons.

“First, it demonstrates that the Province understands that lack of affordable housing in Tofino is having a critical effect on our local economy, and that the wages of many of the town’s residents are way out of sync with rents and purchase prices,” she said. “Second, it’s as a significant contribution, almost 40%, towards the total cost of producing “shovel-ready” designs for about 50 units of workforce housing on District-owned lands.”

She added she was happy to see the Bible Fellowship step forward to form a beneficial partnership.

“The Tofino Bible Fellowship’s initial proposal to Council to build affordable housing on District-owned lands presented a well-timed opportunity to partner and share the burden of some of the costs of developing simultaneously on District Lot 114,” she said. “Municipalities across B.C. have had tremendous success partnering with community living associations, churches, and non-profit housing organizations to achieve shared housing goals. It’s been a pleasure to work with TBF.”

The funding is coming from the BC Rural Dividend Program, which announced $769,680 for three projects on Tuesday.

Along with Tofino’s housing project, the Clayoquot Biosphere Trust is receiving $202,580 to continue its work promoting educational tourism opportunities and market expansion through its West Coast N.E.S.T. initiative and the Alberni Chamber of Commerce has been awarded $67,100 to provide entrepreneurial training for business owners, according to a media release announcing the funding on Tuesday.

“By listening to rural communities, we are able to support projects that deliver wide-ranging local benefits,” said Mid Island – Pacific Rim MLA Scott Fraser. “These three projects alone will support business entrepreneurs, expand tourism opportunities, and deliver much-needed affordable housing.”

West Coast N.E.S.T. Education Coordinator Nicole Gerbrandt told the Westerly News that she’s excited to see the funding support the continued growth, and increase awareness, of the region’s educational events, courses and opportunities.

“Over the past year there’s been more than 30 local organizations and businesses that have promoted their courses and learning experiences using the N.E.S.T website,” she said. “It’s been really well received and the organizations appreciate the extra coverage.”

She added the funds will also go towards building local capacity through skills development and training courses to help locals, particularly youth, grab hold of diversified jobs opportunities.

“We’re kind of maxed out in visitors in the summer, there’s no problem there. Our goal is to increase visitation in the offseason by attracting more school groups or groups of people coming for learning experiences and also to share the prosperity through different partnerships,” she said.

She added that the program has partnered with Ucluelet Secondary School, Ucluelet Aquarium, Royal Road University and Ahousaht’s Aauuknuk Lodge.

“We’re open to more conversations in the future for sure,” she said.

B.C. Rural Dividend funding is designed to encourage economic diversification, innovation, sustainability and collaboration, and recognizes the diverse needs of individual communities, according to the release.

“Government is following through on its commitment to help rural communities navigate changes that have impacted local economies, by supporting local business development and creating new partnerships to promote shared prosperity,” said Rural Development Minister Doug Donaldson. “These rural dividend grants are bringing positive change to rural communities throughout B.C.”

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