Non-profit housing groups in Kaslo and New Denver have each received provincial funding to build $3.5-million affordable rental buildings.
The New Denver and Kaslo projects will receive upwards of $1 million each from BC Housing, with the rest to be made up through other funders including the Columbia Basin Trust and through loan financing.
“The Kaslo Housing Society board is beyond grateful, happy, nervous and resolved,” says society chair Erica Bird about the announcement. “Also, there were some tears, and for me, a spell of hyperventilating.”
She says it is very clear that there is abundant need for more low-income housing in Kaslo.
“Nobody advertises for rentals anymore because they just put the word out once, and you’ve got your choice of people by the end of the day. Housing has become an investment rather than the security of what used to be little rental houses all through Kaslo.”
The 10-unit three-storey frame building, to be constructed in downtown Kaslo, will be known as Penny Lane Apartments. It will have a mix of housing types and levels of subsidization.
One three-bedroom apartment and two two-bedroom units will be available for families.
For the five one-bedroom units and two studio apartments the society expects to attract low-income individuals and couples, seniors, and persons with disabilities who are able to live independently. Two of the ground floor units will be wheelchair accessible.
Two of the units will receive a significant subsidy, five will have rents geared to income, and three of the apartments will be rented at market rates.
Bird says it’s been a long journey to find the two critical things the housing society has been seeking since 1998: funding and a downtown site.
The municipality will be selling a piece of land to the society “for a nominal price,” in what Bird calls the perfect spot.
“It’s within a block or two of the bank, the grocery store, everything. You don’t even particularly need a car, there is easy transit, and everything is in walking distance.”
Located behind the Kemball Memorial Centre and measuring approximately 7,500 square in area, the site fronts onto A Avenue and backs onto Penny Lane.
Kaslo Housing Society will be the operator of the building. Construction will start in November with a completion date early in 2023. Bird says the society is not taking applications yet, but will be starting a waiting list soon.
The project’s developer is New Commons Development, based in Toronto and Vancouver, a non-profit real estate development company that builds affordable housing. The company deferred its fees for both the Kaslo and New Denver housing societies until provincial grants came though.
Jan McMurray of the New Denver and Area Housing Society echoes Bird’s sense of relief at the grant and the urgency about the rental market.
“Everything’s been bought,” she says. “We’ve never had lots of rentals around, (but now) there are just really no rentals at all. Residents who have been renting, the houses have been sold, and they have nowhere to go.”
McMurray is gratified that the two neighbouring communities will be embarking on similar projects.
“It’s just so exciting to have so much success so quickly,” McMurray says, referring to the New Denver society’s relatively recent formation in 2018.
The New Denver housing project, also worth $3.5 million, will consist of 10 units – studio apartments as well two- and three-bedroom units, geared to different incomes and subsidy levels, with a few to be rented at market rates. Some will be offered to seniors living independently.
The building will be located at 602 Slocan Ave. on land owned by the Village of New Denver.
“People are coming up to us asking if they can get on the waiting list already,” McMurray says, “but we’re nowhere near ready to start taking people’s names.”
The two projects are among 47 similar projects totalling 2,455 housing units recently announced by the provincial government.