Finance staff still adding up homeless camp costs

Total bill facing Maple Ridge yet unknown, says CFO

While Maple Ridge taxpayers are being warned about tax hikes caused by costs connected to a former homeless camp, the city’s finance department says the bills from Anita Place Tent City have not yet been tallied.

“We’re still in the process of pulling the costs together of the camp and all the different elements of that,” said Trevor Thompson, chief financial officer with the City of Maple Ridge.

It’s premature to state the total costs, he added Monday.

But he expects a report to go to council soon and that the city will be asking the province for help in sharing some of the expense, although Maple Ridge will have to pay some.

Mayor Mike Morden said at council earlier this month that the camp has cost the city $2.8 million, though the time period during which those occurred is not known.

That could result in a four-per-cent tax increase, Morden said at the Nov. 12 council meeting.

Morden said Thursday that staff have roughly estimated camp costs to be $1million, with another $360,000 needed to remediate site at 223rd Street and St. Anne Avenue, just south of Lougheed Highway.

Those are firm costs that relate to the physical location, he added.

“All of this has a significant impact to taxpayer costs,” Morden said.

That doesn’t include indirect costs and impact to staff, he added.

Currently, council is looking at a 3.6-per-cent tax increase next year, which doesn’t include the homeless camp costs, he said.

“We’re hopeful that the province will do the right thing and we don’t have to transfer this to property taxes,” Morden said.

Coun. Gordy Robson has not seen the actual costs incurred by the city from the camp, but said the legal costs are sizable and the security bill is “horrendous.”

He added that the city should be able to avoid raising property taxes to pay for camp costs, and that the city has reserve accounts that could cover them.

Coun. Kiersten Duncan, though, said that the city’s opposition to supportive housing projects has made things worse.

The current and previous council opposed past housing proposals, as did the former Liberal MLAs.

“I think a large portion of the costs could have been averted if we had invested in housing earlier,” Duncan said.

Council has refused to work with the province and that’s had a negative impact on the community and Maple Ridge will suffer financially for that, she added.

Laura Mathews, with BC Housing, said that there’s no standard cost-sharing agreement between cities and the provincial government for homelessness and that cities are responsible for costs incurred on their properties.

However, the province has already spent almost $2 million on costs related to Anita Place Tent City, Mathews said.

In 2019, the province spent $1.7 million on security, relocating people out of the camp, cleanup, outreach and rental supplements so people can afford to live in apartments.

The province also gave the City of Maple Ridge $220,000 to help with the costs of managing the camp in 2017 and 2018.

The camp was opened in May 2017 and closed for good in September 2019.


 

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