Nelson ponders youth centre micro condos

City manager visited Kelowna to investigate construction boom of tiny suites.

The latest idea for the youth centre is to build micro condo housing on top of it.

The latest idea for the youth centre is to build micro condo housing on top of it.

Micro condos.

That’s the latest idea being floated for two additional storeys on the building that houses the Nelson and District Youth Centre, and city manager Kevin Cormack recently travelled to Kelowna to see what these tiny suites are actually like.

“I heard they had a few successful micro projects over there,” Cormack told the Star.

“I had a chance to sit down with three companies that are building them, one built them as rental property and the other two are for sale, and their price points were certainly something that attracted me to exploring that.”

Kelowna has seen a construction boom in micro condos, which are being touted as a way to curb the effects of the affordable housing crisis. With Nelson’s current zero per cent rental vacancy rate, Cormack recognizes that the city’s feet are being held to the fire.

And he was impressed.

“They make things work, 300 to 400 square feet for a single unit. The rental one, they had storage lockers central to all the units and they had some common patio areas. How they used space was fascinating.”

The Kelowna rental project was completed rented out, with rents between $700 to $750 a month. The developers of for-sale units already had a second building in the works with more than 100 units that were sold out as well.

“There seems to be an uptake of people getting into that entry level as younger people,” Cormack said.

And he thinks it could work in Nelson.

“I talked to a local realtor who said he would see strong demand. The genesis was the idea (two years ago) of adding housing on top of the youth centre we had done a request for interested developers and got very little back and we decided we have to be more aggressive and knock on some doors.”

The city hopes to partner with a private developer for this project.

“We have the land and we could look at how do we deal with zoning and parking and make it attractive to a developer? And all they would have to deal with is building the units and we could deal with the land use part of it.”

City councillor Michael Dailly thinks it’s a great idea. The question is how to get the processing moving along, though, because the housing situation locally is getting increasingly dire.

“I’m frustrated it hasn’t happened already. I don’t know what we can do beyond getting the land ready and getting incentives in place,” he said.

The city recently identified 14 pieces of vacant property where housing could be built and re-allocated staff time to investigate further how the city can encourage new rental builds.

“Micro condos are part of an answer,” said Dailly.

“But really, any new builds will be a high priority. Presumably micro condos will be in the more affordable range, though.”

He viewed some in Richmond and was impressed. He figures for approximately $100,000 someone could buy a micro condo. He believes it’s the perfect sort of home for a young person, a single business person or someone just trying to start out in the market.

“The challenge in Nelson is the cost of building here, but there isn’t another option,” said Dailly.

“But it could happen very quickly if someone comes in and says, ‘This is right, this needs to happen.’”

-with files from Bill Metcalfe