By ROY WOOD
Osoyoos is pushing ahead with subsidies for a 49-unit bunkhouse for hotel and restaurant workers despite concerns from town management that some excluded business owners may object.
The project is the brainchild of local hospitality industry businesses struggling to find staff, partly because of the extreme difficulty workers face in finding affordable accommodation.
The Osoyoos Housing Society (OHS) is a non-profit society started by the Watermark, Spirit Ridge and others. It aims to erect a temporary camp on the Kalkat orchard west of 45th Street and north of Highway 3.
The camp would house 48 workers and resident manager. Twenty-nine of the rooms would be reserved for Spirit Ridge and Watermark employees; the other 19 would be available for other members of OHS.
In the “Implications” section of his report to council today, chief administrative officer Barry Romanko said: “The business community may have some concerns that public subsidies are being considered for a small portion of the business community.”
No further mention of those concerns was made as council discussed the temporary housing project.
In Romanko’s report to today’s meeting, sewer hook-up and “capacity charges” were pro-rated based on the temporary nature of the project so that the “total ask” from the OHS comes in at $17,500.
In series of resolutions, council agreed to:
- Impose a five-year term on the development, making the camp a temporary accommodation. This will enable the town and the Osoyoos Indian Band, which owns the land in question, to get around the so-called “no-build covenant” on the property;
- Enter into an “affordable housing service agreement” with OHS. This will enable the town get around provisions in the Community Charter that restrict the town from making subsidies to businesses; and
- Empower the administration to complete needed agreements with the OIB and the OHS, and stipulating that legal and administrative costs are the responsibility of the OHS.
Councillor CJ Rhodes asked whether there are ways to ensure that the Watermark and Sprit Ridge use only their 60% share and that camp doesn’t turn into a profit-making venture.
Romanko assured council those issues will be addressed in the housing agreement OHS will sign with the town.
The operating costs of the camp will be paid from rent income. The plans call for rents of about $425 per month including utilities.
Parts of the modular camp, which was purchased in northern Alberta, have already arrived in town. The OHS is anxious to get the accommodation ready by the end of this month.