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Nelson council gives feasibility funds for two affordable housing proposals

Nelson CARES and SHARE Housing Initiative Society have identified potential land for new housing projects
The city-owned property at the corner of Front and Cedar Streets has potential for both housing development and for the expansion of the Nelson and District Community Complex, shown in the background. (Bill Metcalfe/ Nelson Star)

Two Nelson non-profit organizations have applied to Nelson City Council for $5,000 each to do a preliminary exploration of the feasibility of future affordable housing projects in Nelson.

Nelson CARES wishes to build on five city-owned lots at 818 to 824 Front Street, and the SHARE Housing Initiative Society has its sights set on 1306 and1308 Fell Street.

Council approved the Share Housing request at its June 4 meeting, and the Nelson CARES request was approved with a condition attached.

The Fell Street lots are located in the vicinity of the Selkirk College Tenth Street campus near the new health campus construction site.

SHARE Housing's Pastor Jim Reimer told the Nelson Star the group has been looking for more land to add to its current housing initiative.

The group built Herridge Place at 102 Herridge Lane in Nelson, which opened in 2021. The building provides 39 housing units for low-income employed people with rents calculated based on their income.

"We have a huge waiting list for worker housing, low income housing, and we have some expertise," Reimer told the Nelson Star. "We have some experience now."

He said SHARE Housing's thinking on the Fell Street properties is very preliminary.

"We need to determine how many units we could put on that land, what it can accommodate, for the best value for our dollar," he said, adding the $5,000 would be used to fund this analysis.

"We're calling it pre-pre-development," Reimer said.  "Once we have a clear, legitimate picture of what can be done, then we will go for the bigger money (including B.C.Housing) and engage with architects and engineers."

The Fell Street lots are owned by the city, and it is currently unclear on what terms the city would make the land available.

The next step will be for SHARE Housing to present the results of the pre-development work to council along with a proposal.

The city's affordable housing fund allows council to use funds for preliminary evaluation work of the type envisioned by SHARE Housing and by Nelson CARES, to help council decide whether to proceed with housing projects on city-owned land.

The $5,000 from the fund would match $5,000 already committed to both groups by the Nelson and Area Economic Development Partnership (NAEDP).

Nelson CARES developed and runs five affordable housing buildings in Nelson: Ward Street Place, Hall Street Place, Cedar Grove Estates, Lakeside Place, and Copper Mountain Court.

The Nelson CARES request was not as straightforward at the council table because the city-owned land in question is located on Front Street adjacent to the Nelson and District Community Complex, which is run by the Nelson and District Recreation Commission.

Commission chair Councillor Keith Page said the commission has always seen those vacant lots as a possible expansion site for the community complex, which he said is "busting at the seams."

The commission consists of the RDCK directors for Areas E ad F, as well as three Nelson city councillors, one of whom acts as the chair and sits on the RDCK board representing the city.

Councillor Leslie Payne said Nelson CARES has discussed with the RDCK its interest in the Front Street properties, and she said the exploratory work funded by the $5,000 could be used to help sort out the dual priorities of housing and recreation.

Council voted to approve the dispersal of the $5,000 to Nelson CARES subject to consultation with, and approval from, the recreation commission.

"Nelson CARES welcomes the city's partnering with not-for-profits that have been, for years, seeking solutions to affordable housing in our community. Nelson CARES thanks the councillors for approving the grant," said Nelson CARES' board chair Ron LIttle.

"With a fast-approaching timeline to apply for significant funding, we look forward to collaborating with the Nelson and District Recreation Commission to determine viable options for pursuing an affordable housing development."


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Bill Metcalfe

About the Author: Bill Metcalfe

I have lived in Nelson since 1994 and worked as a reporter at the Nelson Star since 2015.
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