Municipally controlled corporation pitched to help create housing

Peter Shocker | [email protected]

The Council heard the benefits of establishing a municipally controlled corporation for developing housing during its committee of the whole meeting on June 27.

Incorporated in 2007, the Jasper Community Housing Corporation (JCHC) had identified the need for an alternative governance structure to further housing development.

Specifically, the JCHC would be converted to a municipally controlled corporation.

“The Administration believes that this meets all the intents that we started this discussion with, which, again, just as a reminder to the council, was the ability to bring in private financing, the ability to take debt off the municipalities books and be able to support affordable housing,” said CAO Bill Given during the meeting.

“This structure does all those things, and it is complicated. To be clear, we’re talking about two corporations, different share structures and very detailed financials.”

Last year, after receiving the JCHC governance review, the administration was directed to review corporate structures that would enable the JCHC to assume debt independent of the municipality and provide some manner of equity in return for capital contributions.

Since then, the administration has worked with Colliers Project Leaders and Brownlee Law to develop recommendations and alternatives.

Administration came back on June 27 with a draft business plan, which detailed the structure of this corporation.

The municipality would be its sole shareholder and be able to appoint its own board of directors, and contracted services would include a housing coordinator and internal support services.

Private shareholders would be local businesses and/or residents that are equity owners in future development and would be issued non-voting shares.

The Connaught Drive project, for example, is a 40-unit affordable housing development and is being funded through a $6.5-million provincial grant, $5 million in planned municipal debenture and reduced land release value from Parks Canada.

The remaining capital would be funded by selling shares that are equivalent to occupancy of a unit, to local businesses for staff accommodation or to individuals for their own use.

Given noted that the business plan shows that appreciation of shares is at two per cent interest per year.

“It’s not a money-making investment to invest in this kind of property. It is a worthwhile investment if you’re looking for somewhere to live, because you know that it won’t go down and that there will be that appreciation.”

He added how businesses would be able to purchase shares as an alternative to buying large homes for staff accommodation, leaving them on the market for families.

These businesses also wouldn’t have to act as property managers.

“A business that uses these for accommodation staff gets out of the business of having to change light bulbs,” Given said.

“Sure, you’re getting a lower rate of return, you can’t speculate but also you can go and concentrate on running your business rather than having to manage a property and all the challenges that come with managing tenants.”

Under the Municipal Governance Act, the municipality is required to hold a public hearing reviewing the business plan.

The committee recommended council schedule the public hearing for Aug. 15 at 1:30 pm in the Jasper Library and Cultural Centre.

The business plan can be found in the committee’s agenda.