The Kootenay Christian Fellowship building is shown in the top of the triangle. The proposed building would be in the parking lot to the left of it.

Nelson pastor asks council for affordable housing support letter

The new building would house commercial tenants, 40 affordable residential units, and the SHARE store.

Pastor Jim Reimer of Kootenay Christian Fellowship is asking Nelson city council to support his plan for affordable housing to be built on land owned by his church behind the group’s current building on Falls St.

He made it clear that he was not asking for money, although he said he might do that in the future. He asked for a letter of support in principle to bolster his efforts to raise money elsewhere for the proposed $6 million three-storey building.

Reimer was accompanied at a recent council meeting by local architect Rob Stacey who has produced concept design drawings since Reimer appeared before council last April to inform them of this plan. Those drawings along with Reimer’s detailed written report to council are attached below.

Reimer says the first floor of his proposed building would provide rented commercial space and would house SHARE Nelson, whose current lease on Lakeside Drive expires next year. The upper two floors would provide 40 housing units with monthly rents ranging from $600 to $800.

Our Daily Bread would continue to operate in its current Falls St. location in front of the proposed new building.

“For tenants, we are looking at seniors, couples, the working poor, youth in transition from Cicada Place. These will be below-market rents,” Reimer told the Star last April.

Reimer said this week he has had an encouraging response from BC Housing, and has received a $20,000 grant from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) to hire Innovative Housing Consultants Inc. of Vancouver to determine whether the project is viable. He said the consultant’s report will be completed by September.

The consultant will look at need and demand, financial viability, municipal issues like zoning and access, environmental issues, and geotechnical issues. Depending on the consultant’s findings, the project will be eligible for another $200,000 from CMHC, to be spent mostly on architect fees, Reimer said.

Reimer says two issues will be especially challenging. The first is parking — the building would be built on what is now a parking lot. The second is street access and particularly fire access — the lot faces onto only one street: Highway 3A.

The $6.1 million cost of the building would be covered by a mortgage of just over $4 million from BC Housing (provided it is satisfied with the results of the consultant report) and the group would have to fundraise the remaining $2 million.

Reimer hopes the city will eventually contribute if the consultant report says the project is viable.

“All councillors ran on a platform to provide affordable housing in the city,” Reimer said. “This is the best opportunity in the community in years to make it happen. But it will take some political will.”

He said the difficulty with building affordable housing is that it is not financially feasible for private industry, but with no need to purchase land, this project could be feasible as a non-profit venture.

“If we are going to contribute by donating the land, we expect the city to contribute too,” he said.

City council will decide at its Aug. 10 meeting whether to write a letter of support in principle.

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