Nelson city council has decided to contribute 60 per cent of its affordable housing reserve fund to three affordable housing projects.
The SHARE Housing Society project at 520 Falls St. (a 39-unit mixed use building) will get $18,134, amounting to about 1.8 per cent of the expected $10 million cost of the project.
All three projects will be funded primarily by BC Housing, a provincial crown agency.
These grants leave $29,851 in the fund, which is sourced from private developers of condo units with whom the city negotiates a voluntary contribution per unit.
A city-appointed housing committee administers the fund. Its members are Jenny Robinson, Jessica Curran, Rona Park, Matthew Yates, Roger Ley, Sharmaine Gray, Edward Olthof, Robert Stacey, Jim Reimer, Shonna Hayes, and councillor Jesse Woodward (chair).
Will it make a difference?
At the council meeting on April 8, councillor Rik Logtenberg questioned the proposed grants.
“These projects seem to fit the criteria pretty well … but the amounts seem small given the size of the projects, so I am wondering if it will make a significant difference,” he said.
City planner Natalie Andrijancic agreed but said that given high construction costs it will make a difference, however small.
Councillor Keith Page questioned the housing reserve fund, saying there is a lack of clarity as to its purpose and how it is funded. He said this should be clarified before deciding to dispense money to these projects. He proposed that the housing committee look at it first.
City manager Kevin Cormack pointed out that it was the housing committee itself that recommended this disbursement of funds, and that management staff has already prepared a report on options for this committee and that criteria for use of the money are set out in council policy.
Councillor Janice Morrison didn’t want to wait and advised against more talk.
“Members of the committee already had the opportunity to look at this policy … and the key here is not to have another chat. This is what you have right now … You would be putting off the disbursement of these funds for, it’s hard to determine how long. Let’s get on with this.”
And they did, voting in favour of the contributions to the three projects, with the proviso that the money will be returned should the projects not proceed.
Pastor Jim Reimer of the SHARE Housing Society told the Star he expects to break ground in July but is still in the process of subdividing the property and applying for a building permit.
The society is planning to build a $10-million, five-storey building with one-bedroom units plus some commercial space on its property on Falls Street.
As for funding, Reimer said, “We are at provisional development funding with BC Housing so once all the drawings are done, they will go to tender.
“They [BC Housing] have given us a preliminary letter of approval. We can move forward as if it is going to happen.”
Jenny Robinson of Nelson CARES could not comment on the start date for either of organization’s projects while awaiting final word from the funder, BC Housing.
Pam Mierau of the city planning department said all three projects have received development permits. She said the Nelson CARES project on Hall St. and the SHARE Nelson project have not applied for building permits, while the city is very close to issuing a building permit to the Nelson CARES project on Nelson Ave.
Meanwhile, the seniors’ housing project proposed for Vernon St. — which is market housing, not classed as affordable — expects to break ground in July, according to Joe Schlacter of Vendure Retirement Communities in Kelowna.
The project will provide 4,000 square feet of retail along Vernon and 125 suites — a combination of independent and assisted living — above and below the street. Construction is expected to take 18 months.