I found some inspiration this past weekend and realized that I needed to start applying my @analysevic twitter services to the vast and complex array of meetings that occur at the Capital Regional District. Why? Everyone says the CRD is mess and the only way to solve messes is to draw attention to them in real time.
As my first official adventure in CRD transparency I attended a 30 minute meeting of the Capital Region Housing Corporation because it was the first meeting of the week listed on the CRD’s obnoxiously inadequate calendar page (from which nothing is hyperlinked) and also because the City of Victoria likes to talk a lot about affordable housing and I’ve never been too clear on who all does what with affordable housing across the CRD.
First thing that I want to say is that the CRD website requires far too much clicking through various sections & pages for someone even with my keener levels of interest to sustain while trying to find stuff.
Second thing is that when I called the phone number listed on the standalone page titled Capital Region Housing Corporation Board of Directors, the senior staffer who answered was quite surprised by my request to attend the meeting. She even told me that I was “the first person to ever do so” and when I told her that I go around and live-tweet meetings, she said “great.” She also asked for my email so that she can send me the agenda (available here) because common practice seems to be to not make agendas available ahead of time.
And or to webcast the meetings either.
That no agenda information is made publicly available beforehand is evidenced in their Documents Library where the latest information on the CRHC is from a meeting they had back on March 24th. I imagine this is in part because CRD information related to the Capital Region Housing Corporation is spread across multiple places.
First we have an informational section about the CRHC under the “What do we do?” part of the CRD website within the larger category of “affordable housing”. Then we have a specifically branded section of the website from the CRHC available from crd.bc.ca/crhc which has been styled differently from the main site.
Then when you look through the About Us entry on the main menu bar (which actually isn’t a functional link) for this specific CRHC section and click on the CRHC Board of Directors header and again on a Board of Directors bullet you get taken back to the same standalone CRHC page mentioned above (within the CRD branded site) where a little bit of info on every aspect of the CRHC is provided.
All said and done, there are two main reasons for why it’s inefficient for information on this one issue to be so dispersed across so many parts of the CTD website. 1) because this makes it hard to track and 2) it makes it hard to keep current. Of note is that finances related to the CRHC seem to be stored in a completely separate location from the places mentioned above which means I didn’t have time to really look at them.
So What is the Capital Region Housing Corporation
If you try and find it from the Committees, Commissions & Appointments page of the CRD website, it is way at the bottom under a heading of “Regional Board Appointments to External Boards” where a total of 16 groups are listed. If you just google though, you get taken to the separately branded section of the site.
The CRHC Mission Statement is as follows:
The Capital Region Housing Corporation, as the non-profit housing agency on behalf of the Capital Regional District, is committed to the development, management and promotion of affordable housing that is essential for the well-being of people and communities in the Capital Region.
If you look at their 2015 Strategic Plan (which is 3 pages long) you will see that they have 5 goals for operationalizing this mission:
1. Governance and Leadership
In response to the escalating need for accessible, attainable housing and support for our vulnerable populations, the CRHC will strive to increase facilitation and delivery of mutually beneficial regional housing solutions.
2. Organizational Effectiveness
In response to the need to find solutions to diminishing resources, the CRHC will strive to use resources to highest and best capacity and to ensure that all systems, policies and procedures are efficient and effective.
3. Research and Development
In response to the devolution of federal and provincial responsibility for housing, the CRHC will pursue best practices and seek to develop innovative strategies to ensure current and future operational growth and development.
4. Asset Planning, Renewal and Development
In response to an aging housing stock and fewer federal and provincial financial commitments to social housing, the CRHC will continue to provide well-maintained housing while pursuing opportunities for portfolio renewal and growth.
In response to the need for local government involvement in affordable housing solutions and as a wholly owned subsidiary of the Capital Regional District, the CRHC will strengthen existing partnerships and work to increase the level of effective regional cooperation in the housing sector.
I learned today that while observing a discussion by CRHC members about existing waitlists for their housing (which far exceeds new supply being added), that the CRHC was started in response to a need for affordable housing for families and folks on pensions. This is why, as evidenced in the table below there is a smaller number of singles as waiting for services.
Staff then explained how this is because housing provided by the CRHC is only for people “on the registry” and that this registry is only used by a certain number of affordable housing providers and single people are less likely to be on this “registry”. As for what this registry is and or how exactly it is that the Capital Region Housing Corporation operates I do not know because “members of the public” were not invited to the informational workshop that was scheduled (but not advertised) for after the meeting that occurred this morning.
There was a brief moment of panic and confusion when the CRHC board of directors tried to figure out what to do with me and my attendance in their narrow board room this morning. I made it easy for them by saying that I had other stuff to do today.
Of note is that the CRHC is different from the Regional Housing Trust Commission who as evidenced in a TC article from last week had a recent recommendation rejected by the CRD board for using Trust Fund monies to subsidize 48 new bachelor style apartment units located at 3025 Douglas Road – which would have taken care of the singles needing housing.