A groundbreaking ceremony was held to mark Nelson’s latest affordable housing project Friday. (L-R) Pastor Jim Reimer, Mayor John Dooley, Columbia Basin Trust chair Jocelyn Carver, and Cover Architecture’s Robert Stacey were on hand to announce the construction of a 39-unit building. Photo: Tyler Harper

Work begins on new affordable housing building in Nelson

The 39-unit project is expected to be complete by July 2021

Construction has begun on an affordable housing project nearly a decade in the making.

Pastor Jim Reimer of the SHARE Housing Initiative Society announced at a ceremony Friday that an $11-million, 39-unit building at 520 Falls St. is expected to be completed by July 2021.

“It’s like a dream fulfilled,” said Reimer. “You know there’s a saying, inch by inch, anything’s a cinch. And that’s what it was, inch by inch. We had faith, we just believed it was going to happen. We had really good people who came alongside.”

Renters will pay 30 per cent of their pre-tax income to live at the SHARE Housing building, the maximum amount defined by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation as affordable. The site overlooking Highway 3A will also have 54 parking stalls and three commercial units.

Reimer said his building will be populated with people who have employment but can’t find safe housing.

“What is needed in Nelson is workforce housing, people who are making $15 to $20 per hour,” said Reimer. “Now, they can’t find housing that they can afford. And so they end up moving away or they end up living in a car or tent.”

The building will be the third currently under construction meant to offer subsidized housing in Nelson, which has a zero per cent vacancy rate. Nelson CARES also has projects at the corner of Hall and Front Streets, as well as on Nelson Avenue.

Those projects didn’t face nearly as many obstacles as Reimer’s dream did.

Reimer said Kootenay Christian Fellowship was considering the possibility of housing on the land as early as 2012, when it was purchased to be the new home of the Our Daily Bread soup kitchen.

The SHARE board was formed in 2016, but that same year was denied a $700,000 request in financial and non-financial support from the city.

On Friday, both Reimer and Mayor John Dooley made jokes during their speeches about the rocky relationship between the city and the society during the building’s planning.

Dooley said the triangle-shaped site, which is located behind a building that houses the BC SPCA and Our Daily Bread, was difficult for staff to make work because of its awkward water and sewage needs.

“We had to take our time and do the proper engineering. …,” said Dooley. “Like anything else government does, it’s methodical, it’s thoughtful and it takes time.”

BC Housing, a provincial corporation that provides subsidized housing, also elected to fund one of the Nelson CARES’ projects instead of Reimer’s building in 2016.

But momentum began to shift in favour of the project in 2017 when a BC Housing grant paid for architectural fees and for a housing consultant.

In 2018, BC Housing and Columbia Basin Trust each committed to funding the project, and the city approved a complex variance for the site that will feature both five storey and three storey levels. Last year, the city also approved $18,134 to be spent on the project.

Reimer also credited Cover Architecture, the Regional District of Central Kootenay and consultation from Nelson’s business community for also making his dream a reality.

To sign up for the building’s wait list, email office@kcfoffice.com.

@tyler_harper | tyler.harper@nelsonstar.com

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Work has already begun on the project, which is slated to be completed in summer 2021. An excavator is seen here digging at the site next to Highway 3A. Photo: Tyler Harper

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