A 13-year journey to put a hole in the ground feels like a miracle to Jenny Robinson.
The Nelson CARES executive director says over a decade of work will bring affordable housing to seniors and adults with disabilities late next year when the new Lakeside Place building at 805 Nelson Ave. is completed.
“When you conceptualize that that’s what you want to do, it feels a bit miraculous when things start to roll and you get your team in place and things start to happen,” said Robinson. “It’s great. It will be miraculous for the folks we get to house here.”
A groundbreaking ceremony was held last week to mark the construction of the four-storey building that will feature 47 affordable homes, five of which will be set aside for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness.
Of those homes, 36 will be one-bedroom units, six will be two bedroom, and five will be studio units.
The $13-million project was originally conceived by the Nelson and District Housing Society in 2006. The provincial government is investing $8.6 million in the project, Columbia Basin Trust has chipped in with a $200,000 grant and the remaining balance will be paid off via mortgage.
Nelson CARES provided the land for the project and will also own and operate the building, which is designed to be fully accessible for its tenants.
On-site staff with Nelson CARES’ Kootenay seniors program will provide home support and transportation options, and Robinson added there are also plans to include recreational programming.
“We tried to design something, even though it’s modern, that would match the community as best as we can within a finite budget,” said Robinson. “Ideally it would be a little more historic looking, but it’s going to be an attractive corner where it wasn’t before.”
Construction on the site was delayed by a year when asbestos was discovered in the old motel that was torn down in 2018.
Robinson said the projected completion is now for the fall of 2020, but that could change. She added the hope is to have the building occupied after Christmas 2020.
Robinson said there are currently 164 people on the waiting list for homes at Lakeside Place, all of whom are currently living in either Nelson or surrounding area. She said people at-risk of homelessness, experiencing poor housing conditions or leaving family violence will be considered as tenants.
“We’ll vet those that are in need and see where we land. Hopefully we’ll get 47 people in here pretty quickly.”
Rents will be decided by B.C. Housing.
Lakeside Place is the latest in several affordable housing projects currently under construction in Nelson, which has had a zero per cent vacancy rate for the last five years.
Nelson CARES is also currently working on an ongoing renovation of the 107-year-old Ward Street Place, ground broke earlier this year on a 43-unit building at Hall and Front Streets and last month the society announced it was beginning a $3.2-million restoration of Cedar Grove Estates in Rosemont.
The SHARE Housing Initiative Society, meanwhile, also has approval to construct a five-storey affordable housing building at 520 Falls St.
The emphasis on seniors, however, differentiates Lakeside Place from the other projects. Robinson said Stepping Stones shelter has seen increased use by the baby boomer generation.
“We’re seeing a huge bubble in population at the shelter, which we hadn’t seen really in the past but the last five years we’ve seen tremendous growth.”
A provincial news release handed out at the ceremony said nearly 300 other affordable homes are currently planned for the Kootenays, including 122 rentals, 52 units of social housing for Indigenous peoples and 15 units for women and children leaving violence.
The provincial government included a $7-billion commitment in its 2018 budget to build affordable housing, with the target of 114,000 homes province-side constructed by 2028.