Council knocks Mark McKee off the Community Housing Society

By David F. Rooney

City Council voted in secret on Tuesday to knock Mark McKee off of the Community Housing Society.

Councillors voted in camera on a list of six candidates seeking appointment to the committee as public members. They did not select McKee who had originally been brought onto the committee two years ago during a period when it was floundering and divided over how to deliver affordable housing to the community.

He helped guide the committee to the successful delivery of the duplex at Bridge Creek properties on Oscar Street in 2010. While criticized as not particularly affordable at $1,100 a month the three-bedroom units might not have been built at all because the the deadline for using a $250,000 grant from BC Hydro to build rental housing had almost expired when the committee decided to build the duplex.

Since then, the committee has stepped up to work with Habitat for Humanity to help the Hunt family and it is on the cusp of receiving almost $2 million from BC Housing and the Columbia Basin trust to build two six-unit rows of townhouse-style rental condos at Bridge Creek Properties.

Committee Treasurer Albert Van Goor was so angry at Council’s decision that he resigned his position on Thursday.

“This is a real slap in the face for Mark,” he said after he resigned.

Van Goor said McKee was instrumental in making the committee a success.

McKee, who had been confirmed as committee chairman during its Annual General Meeting last week, said in a telephone interview from Vancouver that when he was told of Council’s decision he was surprised and initially thought it was a joke. Then the shock set in.

“I don’t understand Council’s motives or the timing,” he said. “It’s their right to do what they did but I don’t understand it.”

No one from City Council called McKee to tell him of their decision or to offer him a thank you for the time and effort he put into his role on the committee. He heard about it from a member of the City staff.

McKee has taken affordable housing seriously ever since it became clear in 2005 that resort development was putting a huge amount of pressure on the community’s the price of for-sale housing and rents through the roof.

“This is a very important issue for the community,” McKee said. “My motives were clear from the start. I volunteered my time for the City and the community.”

McKee was replaced by a man named Bruce McLaughlin. They also approved the appointments of Peter Bernacki, Albert Van Goor and Glen O’Reilly. Council will now have to replace Van Goor as well.

According to its official terms of reference the society was created by Council for the purpose of:

  • To develop affordable housing solutions;
  • To engage with community as to make decisions regarding the development of affordable housing;
  • Oversee the management of affordable housing stock established by the City of the society;
  • Management of a housing reserve fund;
  • To advise Council on hosing related matters;
  • To promote awareness of housing issues in the community;
  • To make decisions about affordable housing stock including selection of purchasers and renters; and
  • To lobby senior levels of government and other related agencies for support and resources for housing solutions in Revelstoke.

The society consists of 10 members for a 3-year term:

  • 4 members of Council;
  • 1 Senior City staff member;
  • 1 CSRD Area ‘B’ member;
  • 4 members of the public at large; and
  • 1 Social Sector member