Close to 50 people accepted Pastor Jim Reimer’s invitation to provide feedback on his newest project to develop housing for those living near the poverty line during an open house at Our Daily Bread on Tuesday evening.
A conservative estimate of more than $1.9 million in equity is needed to make the three story, 40 unit SHARE housing initiative a reality.
There were several brief presentations. Architects Graeme Leadbeater and Rob Stacey from Cover Architectural Collaborative reviewed conceptual drawings they produced of a 8,000 square foot building which would also house SHARE Nelson and a small commercial space.
Mike McIndoe confirmed the need for self-contained bachelor and one-bedroom suites based on the Nelson Housing Strategy which identified a projected need of 55 to 110 units. Brad Howard presented a basic overview of costs and equity needed, including a land donation worth $437,500 by Kootenay Christian Fellowship.
One challenge is Kootenay Christian Fellowship needs to know the building can sustain itself. With annual rental revenues estimated at $501,135 and annual projected expenses at $489,015, it leaves little wiggle room for cost overruns. Unforeseen site issues could threaten the project’s success. Soil sampling has yet to be done as the project in “very preliminary stages”.
Rental rates have been set at $600 and $800 to enable individuals to qualify for existing rent subsidy programs. The group estimates the units will be affordable for working people earning $24,000 to $32,000 annually (or $12.30 to $16.41 per hour). It was suggested these units could free up space and increase pressure to reduce rents on similar-sized units throughout Nelson.
Facilitators broke the crowd into two groups to draw out suggestions on project strengths, weaknesses, risks and solutions.
People saw many positives in the project beside filling a much-needed affordable housing void. A new building in a central location in the midst of an emerging trend of smaller houses would appeal to many. Comparable to suites being built in Surrey, Cover Architectural incorporated photos of the Balance condo development which is being marketed as “micro condos” for first time buyers, in the $125,000 range.
“By living small, you can make it affordable,” Stacey said. “They’re nice, not substandard.”
Parking constraints were a concern for several people while others suggested the location loaned itself to managing without a vehicle. The central location could offset some need for parking, as could the simple fact that many people in that income bracket may not own a vehicle.
Required lane and highway setbacks mean there is just enough space for a 8,000 square foot building to be constructed up to the very edge of permissible boundaries. There would be no room for expansion.
Having the rare advantage of southern exposure, the idea of a roof garden or generating solar energy was suggested as well.
There were questions as to who would manage the upkeep of the building and its common areas. One participant suggested that with a mix of long term and short term tenants, high turn over would likely add to management costs and unit vacancies.
Howard mentioned the potential risk of interest rates rising while carrying the $4,173,500 mortgage and others agreed.
The only mention of fundraising was brought up by Jenny Robinson, executive director of Nelson CARES, who recommended a coordination with other efforts.
An overriding benefit was pointed out by one young man who said “[It would be] giving people another chance of life”.
Reimer said the next step is to compile suggestions from the meeting to further develop the project