Telkwa House is physically set up to receive tenants in the newly built senior housing facility, but they may be facing a financial catastrophe if they don’t get some help.
Linda Giddings, who spoke on behalf of the Telkwa Seniors Housing Society (TSHS) at Telkwa council, asked for a tax exemption for Telkwa House to cover their shortfall.
While subsidies are sometimes available for senior housing facilities, it turns out they won’t receive any for Telkwa House.
That’s because of the way funding was provided to build the unit.
In a statement from BC Housing, subsidies are available where a non-profit society have had to take out a mortgage to develop a property — and the subsidy lasts as long as the mortgage needs paying off.
Telkwa House can’t get any rental subsidies because the entire capital cost of the project was paid for through the Seniors’ Rental Housing (SRH) initiative. That initiative provided $123.5 million from both the provincial and federal levels of government to develop affordable rental housing for seniors and those with disabilities.
In Telkwa specifically the initiative provided $1.35 million from the two levels of government, plus $53,400 from the municipality, BC Housing said.
A frustration on TSHS’ part is that they weren’t made aware of the financial restrictions until a training session with BC Housing on Jan. 27.
“[I am] quite frustrated with BC Housing and the timeliness that we’ve received information.”
She said that right now the estimated taxes for Telkwa House is $16,632.94.
“We, very definitely, need a tax exemption.”
Councillor Rimas Zitkauskas said he would like to see if there is anything in the TSHS budget that could be provided through in-kind contributions or with volunteer services from other groups.
Councillor Taylor Bachrach said this is information which would have been helpful earlier.
“The beef is really with the province because it seems like the Village had some sort of agreement with BC Housing over the terms of this relationship and now these terms are changing or these terms need to change to make this project feasible.”
He said it’s an unfair situation for the Village to be put in.
Zitkauskas noted that by giving a tax exemption to a provincially-owned property they would effectively be giving back a portion of the grants that the province gives them to keep the village running.
“I don’t think that’s fair for the province to ask us to do that. I don’t think it is fair to put you in that position.”
Giddings argued that the tax exemption wouldn’t be asking the village to give back anything as they have never collected taxes on this property before.
Council couldn’t make a decision immediately, and Giddings asked that one be made quickly.
“Until we know the bottom line on our budget, we can’t bill our units because if we go ahead and fill them with all low income people we’re going to be in the hole before we start.”
She said that they can only charge 30 per cent of a persons income in rent.