Housing has always been a focus area of discussion and policy action in the Town of Smithers. Smithers Housing Need Assessment Project is the latest initiative taken by the Town in this direction. This project will update the 2014 Housing Need and Demand Study prepared by SPARC BC for the Smithers Housing Action Committee.
The Housing Need Report will reflect the community's current housing needs, establish the Town's role in supporting housing, and meet the Local Government Act's requirements concerning the development of housing needs reports within the April 2022 deadline. Besides, it will position the Town of Smithers, housing providers, social service groups, and additional stakeholders to understand and respond to the community's changing needs while leveraging funding for projects that aim to address the needs. SPARC BC, a Burnaby-based consulting firm, is working with the Town of Smithers on this project.
The initial phase of work will include developing a methodology and data collection plan for gathering information to provide a meaningful picture of current and future housing needs. This phase will also include outreach and engagement with key community partners and stakeholders to put together a comprehensive picture of the overall housing needs across the Town, including developing a complete Community Profile. The final report produced through this process will be published online.
The project's second component is a draft Housing Incentive Policy that includes identifying potential partnerships, policies, strategies, regulatory tools, and other incentives to meet current and anticipated future housing demands successfully. It is anticipated that the Housing Incentive Policy will facilitate implementation of the Town Council's Strategic Plan and updates to the Official Community Plan (OCP), including targets and strategies for infill development, secondary suites, carriage houses, and supports for residents who are experiencing homelessness.
Intending to ensure that the final report content effectively captures the housing realities in Smithers's context, the project adopted a meaningful public engagement process despite the unanticipated circumstances resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic and the 'new normal' in social/community engagements. To this end, the project relied on a range of community engagement tools, including a community survey, stakeholder surveys, one-on-one interviews, and focus group discussions with various groups of stakeholders identified. The above tools enabled the Town to learn more about the different types of housing needs in Smithers and to identify existing challenges, opportunities, and areas for action.
Housing Needs Report-Town of Smithers (2020)
The Housing Needs Report is a foundational document to support the Town in responding to its housing needs and in informing the development of policies and development-related decisions. As a key document that provides a holistic account of the community's housing scenario, this report will also function as an additional resource to guide the service providers, local businesses, and residents. This report's contents are also expected to expand the provincial understanding of the local housing supply and demand needs.
The report is divided into six sections. In compliance with the legislative requirements, the report analyzes fifty (50) social, demographic, economic, and housing-related indicators. As the detailed data inventory is not part of the UBCM's Housing Need Report requirements, the complete, 86-page long data analysis is included as an appendix to the report.
The community engagement findings have been integrated appropriately into various sections and sub-sections of the main document. A separate summary of the community engagement findings has been included as an appendix to the report. Drawing insights from the community engagement activities and sound planning practices relevant to Smithers' development context, the report provides a list of recommendations that are crucial to improving the housing scenario in Smithers over the next five years.
At its January 12th, 2021, Regular Meeting, the Town of Smithers Council adopted the Housing Needs Report from SPARC BC, the consulting firm working on the project.
Please click here to view the Town of Smithers Housing Needs Report (2020)
Rental Housing Incentive Program:
This program provides financial and regulatory incentives to individuals and organizations to create long term rental housing.
The goal of this program is to encourage the development of rental housing (market, non-market, and secondary rental), with a focus on housing for low and low to moderate-income households.
This initiative will contribute towards:
• Increasing the supply of affordable rental housing in the Town of Smithers.
• Supporting the development of a broader range of housing choices for Smithers residents.
• Housing development that makes efficient use of established municipal infrastructure.
• Housing development that helps to build vibrant, sustainable, and inclusive neighborhoods.
There is no deadline for applications as this program is ongoing.
Dollars to the Door Program
The Northern Development Initiative Trust (NDIT) provides funding support to northern communities in various spheres of community economic development and capacity building. With the objective to encourage the creation of new market-based multi-family housing units in communities and thereby to create additional business and local employment opportunities, NDIT launched the Northern Housing Incentive Program in April 2019. The program provides grant funding to local governments to establish a ‘Dollars to the Door’ program, by incentivizing multi-family housing developments undertaken by private sector developers.
The program will benefit new multi-family residential developments in Smithers – both rental and for sale – providing up to $10,000 per newly created dwelling unit, to a maximum contribution of $200,000 to a project/community, at a given time.
As per the Town’s Multi-Family Housing Incentive Program Policy, which established the program requirements and processing procedures for the ‘Dollars to the Door’ Program, eligible projects shall meet the following criteria:
i. Create a minimum of four market-based multi-family self-contained dwelling units in a new development or by converting an existing non-residential building;
ii. Location outside the ‘Downtown Revitalization Tax Exemption Area’ identified in “Attachment 1” of this policy;
iii. Developments must address one or more specific housing needs:
(a) market rental housing; (b) entry-level home ownership; (c) senior housing; (d) small-family housing; and (e) housing for families;
iv. Compliance of the proposed development with all the relevant Official Community Plan and zoning bylaw requirements and should be ‘shovel ready’ upon funding approval;
v. Aim to complete the proposed project within two years from the data of Building Permit issuance unless otherwise extended by the maximum of one year by the General Manager, Integrated Growth and Infrastructure;
vi. The Applicant must be the registered owner of the property; and
vii. All the newly created units must meet the BC Energy STEP Code 2 or above as per BC Building Code.
Please note that the maximum funding available under this program to all the eligible projects in the Town at a given time is $200,000. The Town will receive applications on a first-come-first-serve basis. An application that was not considered for a given intake -- either due to time constraints or NDIT’s funding requirements -- will be considered for the subsequent intake.
NDIT recently approved the Town’s first application to the Northern Housing Incentive (NHI) Program, submitted for the Spring 2021 Quarterly intake. As part of the approved multi-family residential development at 3030 Pacific Street, Ambleside Projects Ltd. has undertaken the construction of three fourplexes, designed as townhouses for sale, creating twelve (12) 2-bedroom housing units, with direct access from Pacific Street. The 3.15-million-dollar project is anticipated to complete in mid-June 2022. In accordance with the agreement signed between the Town and NDIT, this project will receive $120,000 in grant from NDIT upon project completion. Please click here to know more about this project.
The Town is currently accepting applications to the Dollars to the Door Program for the Fall 2022 Quarterly Intake of the Northern Housing Incentive (NHI) Program. The deadline for application submission is October 3rd, 2022. Given that $120,000 of the maximum grant funding available to the Town of Smithers through the NHI program has already been approved for a 2022-project, the maximum funding that an eligible project(s) may apply for is $80,000, or $10,000 per door for a maximum of eight (8) units to be created in one or more developments. If more than one application is received, funding request to NDIT will be prioritized in the order the applications are received. Interested applicants must obtain all the necessary land use approvals and/or development permits for a proposed multi-family development project prior to submitting the Dollars to the Door program application to the Town. Applications either not considered for this term’s funding or submitted after the above-stated application submission deadline will be placed in queue for the Winter 2022 Quarterly Intake of the program.
Interested applicants are advised to contact the Planner, Deepa Chandran, at email@example.com or 250-847-1600.