Mayor Kathy Moore says the City recognized the need for helping create affordable housing. (File photo)

Mayor Kathy Moore says the City recognized the need for helping create affordable housing. (File photo)

Rossland gets funding for affordable housing project

Planning begins on affordable housing project for Emcon lot

Rossland’s got the money, but there’s still a lot to work out before there’s new affordable housing in the city.

The province and Columbia Basin Trust announced funding last week to provide money for 24 units of housing in the city.

It’s part of an $28 million package to build about 170 units of affordable housing in ten communities in the Columbia Basin over three years.

The city also knows where the project will be built — on the old Emcon lot — and who it’s for: lower-wage workers. But Rossland’s mayor says there are a lot of of unknowns.

“Now we have to work out the finer details,” said Kathy Moore. “At this point, we don’t have those details.”

“We hired a consultant to put together our expression of interest,” she told the Rossland News. “Now staff is going back and talking to that consultant, talking to BC Housing representatives and the Columbia Basin Trust too. At this point we don’t even know what the full contribution they are giving us, how it is going to be structured, or anything like that.”

While the city is spearheading the project, it’s partnered with a group called the Lower Columbia Affordable Housing Society, which will act as a landlord. The final building design has yet to be determined, and could include ground-level commercial space, or municipal offices, or any number of possibilities.

Moore says the city proposed the project because of the difficulty workers have finding affordable housing in the community.

“We have a couple of problems here. Rents are high in Rossland, and there’s not much available,” she says. “So this building, the intent is it will be a permanent rental facility. It won’t be turned into condos, not sold off to private owners. It will be rental in perpetuity, that’s the intent.

“It’s called workforce housing. It just means it might be the people who work at a cafe, or a maid at the hotel, or someone who works at the spa — it could be anybody — have to meet a certain income level,” she says. “We don’t know what that level of income is yet, but a level that makes it difficult for them to pay market rent in Rossland.”

Housing relief for workers might be on the horizon, but it will be a while before it’s a reality. With so many details to be worked out, the project is still very much in the early planning phase.

“In the original plan, we thought we’d start lickety-split, as soon as we found out,” says Moore. “But at this point we don’t know, we don’t have details, so I can’t say.

“It will likely be ready two years after the shovels are in the ground. But the key question is, when do we get the shovel in the ground?”

The Basin projects are part of a larger provincial government drive to create 110,000 units of affordable housing in B.C.

“Our government recognizes the urgent need to create more options for people struggling to find reasonably priced rental homes. These new projects will help make life more affordable for families in the region by delivering the housing they need and can afford,” said Selina Robinson, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing.

The projects will be funded by the Columbia Basin Investment in Affordable Housing agreement, announced in December 2017 between the Province and the Columbia Basin Trust.

The province and the trust will provide $14 million each, over the next three years, to create new affordable rental homes in the region.

“We know that housing is essential for healthy and resilient communities,” said Johnny Strilaeff, president and CEO, Columbia Basin Trust. “Our priority is to help ensure residents have access to housing that meets their needs as they vary by community, across the basin.”