Both Nelson CARES and Kootenay Christian Fellowship hope to create affordable housing projects and have asked for the city’s support — but one asked only for a letter of support, while the other requires a significant cash infusion.
“Vacancy rates are so low in Nelson, and we don’t think it’s a blip. We think this is ongoing,” Nelson CARES executive director Jenny Robinson told council in a presentation Monday. “We need to make it more suitable for more people to live here.”
The populations Kootenay Christian Fellowship and Nelson CARES aim to serve include low-income seniors, people with disabilities, couples without children, low-income singles and individuals in crisis.
According to multiple reports, including the annual report card on homelessness, Nelson is severely lacking in affordable housing appropriate for these populations. Following a recent call for proposals from BC Housing, both are looking to capitalize on government funding.
The two projects are proposed for the corner of Kokanee and Nelson avenues, and on Falls St. downtown.
Former Nelson Ave. motel would get facelift
Nelson CARES’ project involves four green buildings on Nelson Ave. that were formerly part of a motel, and would require them to be rebuilt, creating 20 new residential units in the process.
The society acquired the property when they took over the assets of the Nelson and District Housing Society.
“One condition we took on when acquiring that property was we committed to pursue redevelopment,” Robinson said. “We’ve had this on our strategic plan for four years.”
Ultimately they would end up with a total of 39 units. Six would be reserved for people with disabilities, who would pay $375 a month, while 15 would go for $750 and 18 would go for $525.
They’re looking for an equity investment from BC Housing of $5,023,500. The additional $2.5 million needed to complete construction would be part of a mortgage.
Robinson said this is a unique opportunity because the government recently relaxed some of the rules around qualifying for funding.
“This will also improve the corner of Kokanee and Nelson, and improve access and connectivity to the rest of the city,” she said. “This will meet a demonstrated need.”
The group asked for and received a letter of support for their project that they can include in their BC Housing application.
Kootenay Christian Fellowship seeks up to $700,000
Pastor Jim Reimer isn’t exactly sure how they could raise the $6 million required to build his envisioned project on Falls St., but he hopes the city can contribute something in the ballpark of $700,000.
“We want to make this building a reality, and we would not and could not be successful without the support of the City of Nelson,” he said. “This is the only proposed affordable housing in the downtown.”
Mayor Deb Kozak asked for some clarity on what exactly Kootenay Christian Fellowship hopes the city will contribute, and Reimer said they’ll take what they can get.
“You need to be more specific about what you’re asking,” Kozak said. “Perhaps the better course would be for you to have further discussions with the city planners, because right now the parameters are too blurry.”
Council voted to refer the matter to their June 7 meeting, with councillor Janice Morrison saying “the city is asking for more information and for you to get the numbers firmer. We need to have an open discussion of what we think about the proposal.”
Kootenay Christian Fellowship’s targeted rents are $600 for a studio and $800 for a one-bedroom, with 42 new units proposed and space for commercial on the ground floor.
“There will be no benefit to us except the benefit of helping the poor and serving our neighbours,” said Reimer, adding his group has the “capacity to get this job done.”
“We want to make this building a reality,” Reimer said. “We want to build an apartment building so people can have a safe place to call home.”