Housing policy adopted by Houston council

Just in time for last week being Literacy Week, January 24 to January 31, the Dze L K’ant Friendship Centre and Houston Link to Learning put up temporary “story walk” signs in Steelhead Park and the Duck Pond Walking Trails to help entertain and build literacy skills among younger readers.

The signs were allowed up for that one week period.

Plans by the two organizations for permanent signs will have to wait until they and the District reach an agreement as to size of the signs, their content and their ongoing care and maintenance.

And such a deal will also require the formal authorization by council.

Housing policy adopted

The District now has an official policy enabling it to flow money through to local housing projects.

It stems from an application the Houston Retirement Society wants to have made to the Northern Development Initiative Trust. That group offers a construction subsidy of up to $10,000 a housing unit to a maximum $200,000 per project. The retirement society wants to build six housing units this year, increasing its inventory to 24 units.

But the District would have to apply for the grant and then pass it along to the society and for that to happen, it needs to have an enabling policy. As well, the District needs a housing needs assessment, a document it now has and which refers to gaps within the local housing inventory.

A briefing note for council did add that “projects that intend to offer rent that is subsidized by government or non-profit organizations upon completion are not eligible.”

Building permit values jump

A surge in residential alterations and renovations helped propel October to December 2020 building permit values over the $2 million mark.

There were 17 permits issued for an alterations and renovations value of $643,300, significantly more than the $194,900 value of the five permits issued for the same period in 2019.

And when combined with the $1 million permit value for the Tim Hortons outlet, the total permit value for the last quarter of 2020 stood at $2.288 million, substantially over the $786,050 for the same period in 2019 and $700,000 for the last three months of 2017.

These and other District statistics were presented to council at its Jan. 19 meeting.

Dog calls occupy bylaw enforcement officer

Of the 41 complaints of various kinds reported to the District’s bylaw enforcement officer from October to December of last year, 16 concerned animals and the majority of these resulted in letters being sent to dog owners.

There were five standards of maintenance complaints filed with one resulting in a tenant being moved to another unit so repairs could be made.

Of seven unsightly premises complaints investigated, one resulted in a ticket being issued while the owner of another property was sent a letter.

Tourism numbers dip

Tourism visitor numbers dropped the last three months of 2020 compared to the same period in 2019.

Compared to 1,045 visitors counted from October to December 2019, there were 455 visitors last October to December.

Pandemic regulations resulted in a virtual light up and a light up parade.

A Plaid Friday event designed to encourage local shopping was organized but out of 24 promotional keys hid at participating businesses, just eight were returned.

And there were efforts to provide advertising of local businesses at the Huckleberry Coastal GasLink pipeline camp south of town.

Fewer fire department calls

There were fewer fire department calls in 2020 compared to 2019 and 2018, indicate statistics presented by the fire department.

Last year saw 189 total calls compared to 216 in both 2019 and 2018.

Of the 2020 call number, 73 were fire-related, 103 were medical calls and 13 were for motor vehicle accidents.

But although 2020 calls were down, fourth quarter ones topped the equivalent periods for 2019 and 2018.

There were 24 fire-related calls in the fourth quarter of 2020 and just 10 each for the same periods in 2019 and 2018.

Medical calls also jumped in the fourth quarter of 2020 — 39 calls compared to 21 for the fourth quarter of 2019 and 17 for the fourth quarter of 2018.

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