A group that supports women fleeing from violence plans to build 40 units of housing in Campbell River with $4.7 million in funding from the B.C. government.
The province is also providing $400,000 to build four homes for seniors on Cortes Island as part of the $492 million province-wide funding package, which was announced on Tuesday.
Questions remain about whether the funds will be enough to cover construction costs. But community organizations said they welcome the funds amid skyrocketing rents for low-income people struggling in a tight rental market.
“I’m thrilled,” said Valery Puetz, executive director of the Campbell River and North Island Transition Society, a non-profit organization that provides housing to vulnerable women and their children.
Women discharged from the group’s emergency shelter face an “almost impossible task of finding appropriate housing,” she said in statement to the Mirror.
The group is still hammering out the details of the new project, but plans call for a four-storey building with a mix of studios and 1-3 bedroom units. The primary goal is to accommodate women with low or medium incomes and their families, she said.
“It will be affordable, that I can say for sure,” Puetz said.
The new facility will be located near Home Hardware in central Campbell River, and the group expects to build across three lots – 1134, 1162 and 1180 Fir St. – near the group’s Rose Harbour Transitional House. Two of those lots are currently occupied by vacant derelict houses and owned by BC Housing.
Discussions are ongoing between the city and BC Housing about the third property – the former site of a chiropractor’s office at 1180 Fir St. – said Mayor Andy Adams.
Adams said the city is encouraging affordable and supportive housing through measures including tax exemptions and waivers for development permits fees.
“We will continue with our commitment to help with whatever tax break or whatever we can for affordable housing units throughout the community,” Adams said.
Amount ‘very low’ – Cortes Island Seniors Society
Also benefiting from the new provincial funding is the Cortes Island Seniors Society (CISS), which is receiving $400,000 to build four homes for seniors. The group currently operates six cottages in Manson’s Landing, on the island’s southern tip.
Sue Ellingsen, president of CISS, said the funding was good news but that $400,000 isn’t enough to build four units.
“I don’t know where other moneys are going to come from, but we’ll see,” she said. “It’s very low.”
She said that incomes for seniors living on Cortes Island tend to be very low, generally consisting of a small old age pension and a rental supplement from the province.
The new homes will be built on the same parcel of land as the other six, with infrastructure that’s already in place, Ellingsen said.
The funding is part of a program that aims to provide “affordable housing across a range of income levels,” including low-wage workers, seniors and other people on fixed incomes, and middle-class families, according to a B.C. government media release.
A report on regional housing needs released earlier this year by the Strathcona Community Health Network said that rent in Campbell River has increased by 42 per cent over the past decade. Meanwhile, the vacancy rate has plunged from seven per cent to 1.3 per cent.
The report notes that seniors are among the most vulnerable when it comes to housing, along with people on low incomes, First Nations people and those with mental health or addictions issues