The company’s mission is to increase the number of affordable housing in cities.
Squamish is on the verge of having a housing corporation, a long-awaited event for a city struggling with rising housing costs and a near-zero vacancy rate.
The goal of the Squamish Community Housing Society, as mandated in its constitution, is to increase the supply of and access to affordable housing options. The aim is to provide a housing supply that will not cost residents more than 30% of their gross income.
According to its guide for board members, in its first two years, this association should hire and establish its organizational structure and identify a site and potential housing development.
On December 7, the district council voted 5-1 in favor of three readings to establish a constitution and set of bylaws that will govern the organization. The motion also directed staff to incorporate and establish the Squamish Community Housing Society.
Com. Chris Pettingill was the only dissenting vote. Com. Jenna Stoner was absent due to maternity leave and did not vote.
“It is time for someone to focus on housing every minute they are at work and that has not been possible in our current model with all the priorities that are here in the district,” said the mayor. Karen Elliott at the time of the vote.
Later, in his year-end interview with The Squamish Chief, Elliott added that the company would not be a copy of the Whistler Housing Authority, but rather a made-in-Squamish solution.
She also said the project had been delayed due to the pandemic as nonprofits the district worked with focused on helping those in need. COVID-19 has created an increased demand for social services.
“Two years late, but we’re here now,” Elliott said.
This motion should be adopted soon.
At the December 7 meeting, questions were asked about the transparency of the new organization and the composition of the company’s board of directors.
Com. John French ended up supporting the motion, calling it a “historic” event for Squamish, but first raised questions about why the company’s board meetings would be closed to the public, for most.
There is no requirement that meetings of the company’s board of directors be open, meaning the public will generally not be allowed to observe them, staff said. However, there will be a public annual general meeting and a regular report to the board.
“It wasn’t my vision,” French said. “I thought it would be a little more open and accessible. Just a little surprised at where we ended up on this front.”
District chief executive Gary Buxton said when consulting with other companies on the matter that there had been no recommendation to open board meetings.
The board can meet in public if they wish, he added.
Com. Doug Race said that in his experience, directors of corporations do not make their meetings public.
“It really is a company that is going to run a business, and although there is a public nature and a public element, their day-to-day role is to run a business, and that is not usually done in public at any level, “said Race.
Buxton said the annual general meeting could be public and the company will make a presentation to the board at a public meeting each year.
Com. Eric Andersen said closing board meetings would allow the organization to be nimble and quickly capitalize on opportunities as they arise.
While other advisers decided they were comfortable with the board’s openness level, this was one of the many open questions for Pettingill.
“I’m leaning towards having directors’ meetings public by default. I’ve been on several boards where boards decided to go that way and it worked well until close, as the board does, when it is necessary, ”he said. noted.
“I think, especially in the early years, there’s a lot of public money going into that and it’s done a lot for the public good rather than as a private enterprise, and so I think that level openness is important. “
Pettingill also said he was concerned about the makeup of the board.
“I still have concerns about the seats reserved for [the] mortgage and banking sector and development sectors. We know that the housing crisis is largely due to the commodification of housing and the lucrative motives of these sectors, ”he said.
“For me, the goals of the company and the goals and decisions that need to be made are inherently at odds with the for-profit motives of these industries. And while I think advice and understanding are important, I would prefer that not being in the decision-maker’s seat as a requirement. “
The company’s articles of association require that at least one member of the board of directors be from the private development sector, which can include developers, real estate agents and contractors, among others.
It also requires two administrators from the housing or legal sector, which can include mortgage brokers, finance professionals, housing planners, and property managers, among others.
The council will also include one director each from the Squamish District Council; Howe Sound Women’s Center Society; Sea to Sky Community Service Company; Squamish Helping Hands Company; Squamish Home for the Aged Society; Squamish Nation or Hiy̓ám̓ ta Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Housing Corporation; and a director who occupies an affordable housing unit in the district.
Directors will serve on the board for terms of three years, with a maximum of two terms, or six years.
These directors will be appointed by “voting members” of the corporation who are representatives of the District of Squamish; the Howe Sound Women’s Center Society; Sea to Sky Community Service Company; Squamish Helping Hands Society and Squamish Senior Citizens Home Society.
Pettingill said tenants and unit owners in the company should also have voting members.
“Maybe the original members should have disproportionate voting roles, but I think if you live here, if you are a tenant, you should have voting rights for this company,” he said. “It’s for the good of these people.”