District of Squamish Waives Construction Fees for Refugee Sponsors

By Gagandeep Ghuman
Published: April 27, 2017

District of Squamish is granting an exemption of construction fees for families who are sponsoring Syrian refugee families in town. The construction fees are the development cost charges and the building permits associated with any building.  CAO Linda Glenday said there are families in town sponsoring refugees and the staff is recommending that council grant an exemption for fees associated with secondary suite construction.
Following this decision, the council also decided to exempt all secondary suites from fees to generate more housing stock in the rental market. The district had already been working on the Affordable Housing Task Force, which looked at ways to stimulate affordable housing, district spokesperson Christina Moore said. The decision to exempt construction fees for refugees comes after a district decided to give free bus passes for one year to refugee families from Syria who now live in Squamish.  District will provide bus passes for one year for a family of four and bus passes for another family of eight. The passes for two families are worth $3,300. The request for bus passes were given by council at the request of families sponsoring the refugees.  There are now three Syrian families in Squamish, sponsored through the Squamish United Church. The settlement of the families, including English tutoring, adapting to Canadian customs and weather, and other important aspects, is being greatly aided by the local settlement services, according to Huge Kerr, the chair of the Squamish refugee committee at the Squamish United Church. Kerr said the district has supplied the bus passes, and the local school board has also been very accommodating.
“All of the school age children are now enrolled in school, and are enjoying it immensely – and are learning English very quickly. They are keen to learn. The parents also are keen to learn English and are being helped by both settlement services and group members.
“The sponsoring groups have been very busy, helping with many tasks which the newcomers are unfamiliar with:  banking, medical enrolment, English, library, government programs and school enrolment, shopping, travel by bus and bus schedules, etc. The families are very happy, and very grateful, to be in Canada. They also are very determined to find employment and become independent,” Kerr said.
Kerr said although there have been many stories in the media about the arrival of Syrian refugees in Canada, local sponsoring groups have been very respectful of the privacy of families here. “The Syrian political situation is very complex. We do not know the exact circumstances under which any of the families left, and whether publicity about them might impact on families back in Syria. Specific details about the families will only be publicized if and when they knowingly agree. We are sure that Squamish citizens will welcome them, just as the sponsoring groups have enthusiastically welcomed them,” he added.