The first stages of affordable housing in Salmo are finally taking shape.

The first stages of affordable housing in Salmo are finally taking shape.

Affordable housing project begins in Salmo

The Salmo and Area Affordable Housing project was first conceived 1987, and in July construction finally began.

It’s been a long time coming but Salmo will soon be home to an affordable housing complex.

The Salmo and Area Affordable Housing project was first conceived by a group of residents in 1987, and in July, contractor Scuka Enterprises were on the Rotter Avenue site ready to finally dig in.

Former Salmo Mayor, Phil Berukoff, has been at the helm of the affordable housing initiative since its inception 26 years ago.

“Through the years it felt like we were taking one step forward and two steps back,” said Berukoff.

“But through the many studies and surveys we have funded, one thing was clear. There is a need for a senior’s home in Salmo.”

The Salmo and Area Housing Society flipped a lot of burgers and auctioned countless cords of firewood over the years to raise money to purchase the property currently under development.

Now, the Society has teamed with BC Housing, BC Non-Profit Housing Association (BCNPHA) and Columbia Basin Trust (CBT) to assist funding the $4.5 million project.

As the ground was being readied for construction, one taxing matter remained for Berukoff. Late July, he addressed Salmo council in a bid to request a 10-year tax exemption bylaw from the village.

He first approached the village in 2012 to request a yearly resolution from council  for a tax exemption, that could near half a million dollars by 2023.

“BC Housing is financing part of our project and would like to have something definite,” explained Berukoff to council. “They’ve requested a bylaw so if council changes in a few years, it cannot come back and say ‘no’ to an exemption. BC Housing is already worried we can’t pay the taxes after the 10 years.”

Once the project is complete, taxes owed to the village would be $35,000 for the first year, and estimated to be $42,000 by year ten.

The life cycle of the complex is expected to be 50 years, explained Berukoff, adding, over a 40-year span that would mean $1.6 million in revenue to the village.

“The village would stand to lose around $400,000 in taxes in the next decade,” he said. “But I think it’s a good investment because it was raw land before we started and will bring a good return in the future.”

Council conceded and gave the bylaw three readings. Next the bylaw must be presented to the public at a Committee of the Whole meeting this fall before final adoption.

Historically, taking care of Salmo seniors who required extra help, meant relocation to a facility in Trail, Castlegar, Nelson and beyond.

“It’s about keeping our seniors in our own town,” said Berukoff.

“There has been a drive to make it happen and everyone in the community deserves credit.”

Since 2005, the 1.6 acre property, located behind the Kootenay Savings Credit Union,was earmarked for  the village’s need for senior housing.

However, in 2010, the Society, CBT and BCNPHA, in conjunction with the village, determined an overall need for affordable housing in the Salmo community and surrounding area, after a 2006 census revealed average household incomes were the lowest in the Basin.

One-third of the area’s population spends 30 per cent or more of its income on housing compared to 21 per cent in other Basin communities, according to a BC Housing summary report based on the census.

In addition to 20 units for seniors, design plans were updated to include two (four unit) townhouses for individuals who live in inadequate housing or cannot afford the housing they require.

“We are committed to a building that we can be proud of,” said Berukoff. “The units are not low cost, but they will be affordable.”