Maja Tait

Sooke shunned by province, mayor says

"I feel we are ignored by the province," Tait said, adding most Island politicians seem to agree with her.

B.C.’s Liberal government is ignoring Sooke and other Island communities housing needs because it concentrates too much on metropolitan areas, Sooke’s mayor says.

Maja Tait made the allegation following a major provincial housing announcement last week, where $5.5-million in funding was announced for a 40-unit affordable housing facility on Church Road in Sooke.

The announcement was the first substantial housing development in more than two years targeted at Sooke, said Juan de Fuca MLA John Horgan.

“I feel we are ignored by the province,” Tait said, adding most Island politicians seem to agree with her.

Tait learned of the Church Road announcement from a Twitter account feed.

For years, Sooke politicians and Horgan have lobbied for affordable housing in the region and found little success getting provincial funding.

The most pressing need is the expansion of Ayre Manor, a long-term care facility that has been “shovel ready” for four years as it waits for provincial funding to build. The Sooke Elderly Citizens Housing Society wants to build a 56-bed, four storey building there.

“I do feel it would be excellent that Ayre Manor would receive money for its expansion. I think it would be a priority for this community,” Tait said.

The government needs to invest in more housing. Many communities are left out, including Sooke, Horgan said, adding he has grappled with a bevy of housing and health ministers to get Ayre Manor built.

“I think particularly to Ayre Manor, [the Liberals] are tone deaf. No question. They need to have a better understanding of the communities on the Lower Island.”

B.C. Housing does not have any requests to fund Ayre Manor, said Lindsay Byers, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Natural Gas Development and Ministry Responsible for Housing.

Island Health is currently working with Ayre Manor in Sooke to open a two-bed community hospice unit. This will increase by two the number of beds funded by Island Health, said spokesperson Kellie Hudson.

“There are no other plans to add funded complex care or assisted living capacity to Ayer Manor at this time,” she said.

Provincially, the B.C. government has committed $855 million this year to support the construction of 5,000 units of affordable rental housing. This includes a $119 million investment for 18 affordable housing projects on Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands, Byers said.

But for Tait, the lack of a building expansion at Ayre Manor is affecting Sooke on many levels.

“There’s nothing else out this way. I think the [Health Ministry’s] attitude to shift people to another community is cruel, insensitive and insincere. I have a really hard time with it,” she said.