Open letter to Ladysmith Resources Centre Association (LRCA) members and the community of Ladysmith from the LRCA Board
Recently, you may have seen social media posts regarding concerns on how the LRCA’s Heart on the Hill building has been tenanted. We know that as a community you expect the LRCA to be there for those most in need and we have tried to do this, but you deserve to know that this has not been easy.
As many of you are aware, when we started working on the Heart on the Hill project back in 2016, we had a dream of creating an inclusive, welcoming, safe, and affordable home for Ladysmith seniors, families, and people with intellectual/developmental disabilities (IDD). Our proposal to BC Housing in 2018, which was accepted, outlined this dream and it was the basis of the initial funding commitment from the Province. This dream was also the basis upon which the LRCA sought community and town approval.
In May 2021, the previous LRCA Board signed the standard Operating Agreement with BC Housing that did not recognize the initial intent of the housing project. This resulted in a Human Rights Tribunal complaint against BC Housing, the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction and later, the LRCA was included in the complaint.
Concern over the direction of the Heart on the Hill project resulted in a special general meeting in July 2022 in which the LRCA membership clearly told the LRCA Board to reinstate the original intent of the housing project and to prioritize 1/3 of the housing to each of the three original populations: seniors, families, and persons with IDD.
In November 2022, the LRCA membership elected a new Board of Directors with the mandate to follow-through with the motions passed at the July special meeting and to be more transparent with the membership.
The new LRCA Board raised awareness of the membership direction on the housing project and the potential impacts of not prioritizing units for the most vulnerable group – persons with IDD – to BC Housing. However, BC Housing held the LRCA to the legal obligations in the Operating Agreement signed in 2021. The new Board also negotiated with BC Housing to reduce the average rental amount required for Rent Geared to Income suites. Rents were reduced but not enough to make them affordable for many people with a low income living in Ladysmith. In order to attract people with higher incomes, and to meet the mortgage payments, the Board was required to open tenanting to people from outside of Ladysmith.
The LRCA Board is also regrettably constrained by the existing human rights complaint. Because of this complaint, the Board is limited as to what information and how much information can be shared with the public. In addition, due to the human rights complaint and the potential for a conflict of interest, the LRCA Board was required to have an independent person take on the process of selecting and processing tenant applications.
As a result of all of this, the LRCA Board has not been able to fulfill its mandate to restore the original intent of the Heart on the Hill project requested by the membership in 2022. This is very disappointing to many people. Despite our best efforts, the current LRCA Board cannot correct past mistakes. For this, we sincerely apologize.
The Heart on the Hill is providing affordable housing to people who need it. We have all learned from this experience and, hopefully, by working together, we can use what we have learned to address some of the remaining unmet housing needs of our community.
LRCA Board of Directors
July 13, 2023