Although cities in Canada are primarily charged with the provision of services like sewer, water, garbage collection, parks, roads, fire and police, there is an increasing need to also address social development concerns.
To address existing community social issues and also develop the capacity to respond to the emerging needs of our diverse population, the city has prepared a draft Social Development Strategy to the year 2022.
It sets out what activities and resources the city needs to put in place to deal with concerns such as health care, non-market housing, drugs, seniors care and other community concerns.
A final round of public comments is being sought before council considers final adoption of the strategy.
This gives all the social service agencies, groups, individuals and the general public that were consulted in its preparation an opportunity to review the final draft document and confirm their concerns were addressed.
Social planning has always been an integral part of the overall planning process in Richmond.
Our city has an impressive record in addressing social development issues even though cities generally have had very limited powers to do so.
Legislative constraints plus a lack of senior government funding leave us very little room within our property tax based budget for substantial funding of social needs.
Despite those constraints, Richmond has accomplished much over the past 20 years.
For example, council: ? adopted and implemented various socially-oriented plans, strategies and policies (e.g. Community Wellness Strategy, Older Adult Service Plan, Youth Service Plan and Affordable Housing Strategy).
? funds the Problem Gambling Prevention program with almost $200,000 yearly.
? awards close to $600,000 annually to various social development groups through the City Grant Programs.
? negotiated with the development community for $3.1 million in cash contributions to the affordable housing fund, 296 subsidized rental units, 430 affordable rental units, 303 market rental units, 19 entry level home ownership units and 15 units of special purpose housing for lone parent families.
As the city moves forward in 2013 we have several exciting social planning initiatives underway.
The Kiwanis Club of Richmond has recently made a bold and innovative move to upgrade 122 units of seniors housing built in the 1960s on land across from Richmond Centre.
Kiwanis is working with the developer Polygon and the city to build two high-rises of approximately 296 affordable rental apartments for seniors.
This forward thinking move on the part of the Kiwanis Club will provide more than double the seniors housing in the heart of Richmond adjacent to the shopping mall, park, library and seniors centre. An ideal location!
On Granville Avenue between No. 3 Road and Buswell, the city is facilitating the redevelopment of this property with a consortium of social service partners, including SUCCESS, Turning Point, and Coast Mental Health to provide 129 units of affordable housing and 11,700 square feet of complimentary community space.
The city is examining the possible redevelopment of the Minoru Seniors Centre, aquatic centre and surrounding property to provide new and expanded facilities and looks forward to working with members of the Seniors Centre and others as the analysis continues.
These are just a few examples of projects the city is undertaking to address our social service needs. Once adopted, a social planning strategy will enable us to focus on areas of need, prioritize resources, to move the city forward.