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Ward Street Place one step closer to receiving grant money

Ward Street Place is among four Kootenay housing projects to pre-qualify for a new grant to increase affordable housing.

Ward Street Place is among four Kootenay housing projects to pre-qualify for a new grant to increase affordable housing.

Nelson CARES society, which owns the 100-year-old apartment block at Ward and Victoria streets, must now submit a full business case for the renovations it plans to undertake to add 12 new low cost rental units to Ward Street Place.

If that meets the criteria of the funders — Columbia Basin Trust and BC Housing — a grant for over $1 million could come their way by the end of the year.

“There’s a lot of pieces that need to fall into place between then and now,” explained Jenny Robinson, executive director of Nelson CARES. “We’re happy to be into the next phase of the application, but nothing is for sure yet.”

Projects in Salmo, Fernie and Revelstoke were also selected to move to the next phase of qualifying for a piece of the $10 million that the funders are offering over three years. A total of nine submissions were reviewed for this first round of funding.

For Ward Street Place, the affordable housing grant would pay for just over half of a $2 million revitalization project to not only increase the number of rentals, but also increase safety and energy efficiency in the 32 existing units and restore the building’s exterior.

Besides money from the grant, Robinson said funding for the project will come from refinancing the mortgage on the building and a fundraising campaign slated to begin in September.

“The grant is like the domino that will set the whole thing in motion,” Robinson said. “We don’t want to go to the community for help until we’re really sure we’ll be getting the funding.”

Part of the project includes moving Stepping Stones emergency shelter from the basement of Ward Street Place to its own building downtown. Nelson CARES has put an offer on a new location and is also awaiting approval on that, according to Robinson.

Nelson CARES purchased Ward Street Place in 2002 as a social enterprise. It leases out five commercial spaces in the building and uses that revenue to offset the rent on residential units.

There is always a list of people hoping for a spot in the building.

“This project would go a long way to helping us house more people safely,” Robinson said.

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