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On November 28, 2015, voters in Courtenay, Cumberland and the three electoral areas of the Comox Valley Regional District (CVRD) – excluding Denman and Hornby Islands – were asked:

“Are you in favour of the Comox Valley Regional District adopting Bylaw No. 389 being “Comox Valley Homelessness Supports Service Establishment Bylaw No. 389, 2015” to establish a service that would provide funds to one or more local nongovernmental organizations based on a board approved five-year action plan to address homelessness in the Comox Valley? Yes or No”

Bylaw No. 389 would provide funds to one or more local non-governmental organizations based on a board-approved five-year action plan to address homelessness in the Comox Valley. The service area that is subject of this bylaw includes the City of Courtenay, Village of Cumberland, Baynes Sound – Denman/Hornby Islands (Electoral Area A) (excluding Denman and Hornby Islands), Lazo North (Electoral Area B) and Puntledge – Black Creek (Electoral Area C). 

Results

Yes1,617 votes cast (53%)
No1,433 votes cast (47%)

Background to the Referendum

View the Declaration of Official Results

In November 2014, the CVRD held a non-binding vote to measure public opinion on the homelessness issue. When asked, 71 per cent of voters indicated that they would pay at least $5 on their taxes to support initiatives to help address homelessness. Residents of the City of Courtenay, Town of Cumberland and the three electoral areas of the CVRD voted. Residents of Hornby and Denman Islands were not included; the Town of Comox indicated its intention to pursue other methods to address homelessness.

As a result, the CVRD Board of Directors voted to hold a referendum on November 28, 2015. The board approved the wording of the referendum on September 29, 2015.

Frequently Asked Questions
What does the referendum question mean and why was it necessary?

The referendum question asked voters if they were in favour of the collection of taxes to provide funds to community organizations that would deliver services to assist the homeless in the Comox Valley. 

Regional districts must adopt “service establishment bylaws” to collect taxes and deliver services, such as transit, sports centres, building inspections, etc. The “yes vote” in the referendum allowed for the creation of Bylaw No. 389 to make funds available to help address homelessness.

The referendum question mentioned a five-year action plan. Does that mean taxpayers will be paying for this service for just five years?

No, there is no specified end to the service. The Comox Valley Coalition to End Homelessness (“The coalition,” a coalition of organizations involved in various ways with homelessness in our region) worked with local organizations to develop a Five Year Plan to End Homelessness that includes performance measurements. The CVRD board annually approves the current-year funding as established in that five-year plan. The coalition may also identify a need within its plan to set aside funds for future activities.

Who pays the tax - is it just residential property owners, or are commercial property owners taxed, too?

All property owners, including residential, commercial and industrial, in the noted areas pay the tax.

How much money is raised through taxation?

It’s the greater of $165,000 per year or two cents per $1,000 of assessed property value. At the tax rate of two cents per $1,000 of assessed property value, the owner of a residential property assessed at $300,000 would pay a $6 per year. For a residential property assessed at $600,000, that owner would pay $12 per year.

The amount collected from commercial and other non-residential properties depends on a tax multiplier applied in each CVRD jurisdiction. The province sets the multiplier for rural areas and municipalities set their own multipliers, so the business class tax rate varies depending on where the property is located.

For example, a commercial property in Baynes Sound – Denman/Hornby Islands (Electoral Area A) assessed at $300,000 would pay $14.70 per year; a commercial property with the same assessed value of $300,000 in the City of Courtenay would pay $16.80 per year. The 5.25 per cent collection fee that the provincial government charges for the collection of taxes in the rural areas would be in addition to the rural estimates quoted above. 

How much are the CVRD administration fees for the service?

The CVRD has a cost allocation and support services policy that determines administration fees. In 2015, a service with a similar budget as the proposed homelessness supports service paid approximately $2,500 in administration fees. This pays for liability insurance, legal fees (if required), the CVRD staff time to provide funds to the local non-governmental organizations and other administrative costs.

How does the money get from the CVRD to the homeless?

The CVRD board reviewed the Comox Valley Coalition to End Homelessness’ five-year plan and approves current-year funding requests. The approved funds are issued by the CVRD directly to the local non-profit organization(s) identified in the plan for that year’s efforts. Those organizations are responsible for delivering the services to address homelessness. The CVRD has not hired staff or borrowed funds (nor will we in the future) to support the service. Further, the CVRD will not purchase or own property under this service.