Village of Fruitvale council has partnered with the Lower Columbia Affordable Housing Society (Society) to move the Former Beaver Valley Middle School Master Plan forward.
In a special meeting on Oct. 13, Fruitvale council agreed to lease 2.8 acres of the approximately nine-acre parcel of land at 1800 Columbia Gardens Road to the Society in order to proceed with the first phase of development.
“We (council) have committed to our intent to lease to the affordable housing society for 60 years for $100,” said Fruitvale mayor Steve Morissette. “In order to get funding from BC Housing to help us with demolition of the school and help us with the master plan of the project, we have to dedicate one-third of the project to affordable housing.”
By partnering with the Society, securing grants from Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) and Building BC: Community Housing Fund (CHF) will be strengthened and expedited.
“I’m certainly excited about the opportunity, because with our housing society we have been able to develop housing in Trail and in Rossland, and we’ve always known there is a need in the Fruitvale and Beaver Valley area,” said Jan Morton, chair of the Society.
The non-profit Society operates a number of affordable housing properties in the Greater Trail area and is currently developing Columbia Park, a nine-unit facility in East Trail, and designing a 37-unit Rossland Midtown Project, with construction potentially to start in spring of 2021.
“Developing any kind of affordable level housing is subject to securing funding from federal and/or provincial governments, and we have an active plan and we’re going ahead with that in Fruitvale,” said Morton. “So I think we will be successful, if not the first application, even if it takes a second application we will be successful.”
For Fruitvale council, leasing the property is a significant step in seeing development on the lot that has been vacant since 2003.
“Without a commitment from the village, it’s not going to happen,” said Morissette. “They (the Society) will do the project, that will be their thing. It will be their housing, it won’t be the village’s. We’ll lease them the land and they’ll do the project.”
The primary focus of Phase 1 construction of the B.V. Middle School Master Plan, which was introduced at a public forum last month, is to develop affordable housing that includes accommodations for seniors and low-to-moderate income earners, in addition to providing a daycare.
The experience the Society brings to the table will be invaluable to the development, and the resulting project fulfill a much-needed void in the community.
Home ownership is not attainable for many modest income working families in Beaver Valley, and rental properties overpriced or nonexistent, so having affordable housing available is a benefit to sustaining the community and local businesses.
“By the time the Fruitvale project is developed we’ll have close to 80 units of affordable housing in the region,” said Morton. “And there is a real efficiency of operation that can happen when you’re up into that size.”
The village has committed to a standard 60-year lease, and will exempt the project from development-cost charges and taxes. The development fee waiver should make the investment even more attractive to potential developers, and will hopefully speed up the process.
“They’ve done a number of projects, so they’re well-versed in these,” added Morissette. “They know how to cross the Ts and dot the Is, and they’ll build it and manage it.”
The Society has also worked closely with CitySpaces Consulting Ltd. during the Rossland Midtown development, and will continue that relationship through the Fruitvale project.
Grant applications will likely be submitted by the new year, said Morton, who remains confident in the outcome.
“We would anticipate having results of those funding applications coming in within four to six months, then we get underway with all the really detailed planning.”