Princeton’s Crisis Assistance Society should not pay rent to the Town of Princeton.
It’s as simple as that.
Earlier this year, the society made an appeal to the town for a rent reduction for its thrift store, which operates at 111 Vermilion Avenue, next to the library.
The property is owned by the municipality. While it was stated the society, mayor and staff would meet to discuss the matter, the item never came back to the table.
Earlier this month, in a report to the new council, the director of finance confirmed that the thrift store pays $14.64 per square foot – $426.90 plus GST – to operate the store.
The society gets a tax exemption on the property, but pays its own utilities and insurance.
Council approved a recommendation that the issue of rent reduction be referred back to administration for a resolution.
The staff report stated: “We do want to make sure that we do not undervalue rents in the downtown core as a courtesy to business owners in the area. A fair, balanced, close to (but under market) rate of rent is a good standard to establish.”
Market rate was identified as between $10 and $12 per square foot.
That’s just not good enough.
The Crisis Assistance Society is comprised entirely of volunteers, and the shop is staffed by volunteers.
The store receives donations of used clothing, small appliances and other items from the community, and sells them to help people in trouble.
Other than occasional cash donations from business and industry, which frankly have sometimes been required to keep the wheels turning, it is the group’s only source of funds.
It’s the only source of funds to temporarily shelter people who are left homeless after a fire or other residential disaster, or who find themselves on the street for any reason.
It is the only source of funds to provide food vouchers for those same people, and to assist those travelling through town who fall on misfortune.
The society, of course, also operates the Princeton Christmas Hamper Program. Last year it provided holiday dinners for 140 households, and made sure every child in the community had a present to open Christmas morning.
They are hard at it again this December.
Princeton Crisis Assistance is an essential service.
It should not pay rent to the municipality.
This is especially true when one considers the Masonic Lodge – which is also on Vermilion Avenue and is also owned by the town – pays rent of $1 a year.
This situation is not the fault of the newly-elected council members. It’s really quite historical.
However there is an opportunity now to make it better.
If the Town of Princeton cannot afford to forgo $5,000 worth of revenue annually in order to support the work of volunteers who are dedicated to helping our most vulnerable neighbors…well…then, what can we afford?
-The Similkameen Spotlight