Letter: Will Kelowna councillors stick to healthy housing vow?

One Kelowna reader weighs in to the debate

To the editor,

Renters and prospective homebuyers in Kelowna should be happy the Healthy Housing Strategy was approved (by city council) last summer. It’s a beautiful piece of planning that involves, not least, supporting rental housing and improving affordability for market housing.

The first challenge to the strategy came with a development application for the Brooklyn, a 178-unit downtown condo building that’s been promoted as having short-term rentals and marketed to foreign buyers. Instead of showing some backbone and rejecting a development that exacerbates the housing crisis, council caved in to the developer and approved it.

The second challenge came with the strategy’s implementation schedule. It’s falling behind. As of last month, six out of seven strategic actions scheduled for 2018 had seen no movement whatsoever. Ten more await implementation in 2019 and two in 2020.

RELATED: New supportive housing in Kelowna to provide the homeless with a home

During last October’s civic election campaign, Renters United Kelowna posed a survey question to all candidates. The question came with its own preamble:

“The Healthy Housing Strategy is an ambitious five-year plan to address the community’s most pressing housing issues. Would you support the creation of a backbone organization to implement the Healthy Housing Strategy such as the one created for the Journey Home Strategy?”

Residents might recall that the Journey Home Strategy (to address homelessness) clearly states that the Journey Home Task Force and the City of Kelowna are responsible for setting up a backbone organization to lead implementation on this difficult file.

RELATED: At the helm of the Journey Home Society

Renters United was pleased to learn creation of a backbone organization to implement the Healthy Housing Strategy seemed like a good idea to many of the civic election candidates. Fifteen of 21 answered yes to the survey question, including six who were elected.

But since the election, Coun. Luke Stack has said he can’t remember committing to establishing or considering establishing a backbone organization to implement the Healthy Housing Strategy. He’s said he has no intention of supporting one. Coun. Maxine DeHart and Coun. Charlie Hodge so far have not answered the question Renters United has asked them several times, and now asks all of the successful candidates again.

Will DeHart and Hodge, as well as Councillors Loyal Wooldridge, Gail Given and Mohini Singh follow through on their election pledge to support the creation of a backbone organization to implement the Healthy Housing Strategy?

Dianne Varga

Renters United Kelowna

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