North Vancouver is on its way to getting another 196 units of affordable housing following a major funding announcement from the province on Tuesday.
The Kiwanis North Shore Housing Society will receive $10.6 million towards its 106-unit, six-storey seniors’ housing project on Whiteley Court. The Sanford Housing Society and Hollyburn Family Services Society have been granted $9 million for a 90-unit family-oriented project adjacent to Phibbs Exchange.
Across B.C. 4,900 new units of below-market housing were included in Tuesday’s announcement.
“It’s historic, actually,” said Bowinn Ma, North Vancouver-Lonsdale MLA. “From what I understand, it’s the most units ever funded at once in B.C.”
About 18 of the units in the Hollyburn/Sanford project will be reserved for people in “deep need” – folks on disability benefits or seniors on fixed incomes who only receive about $375 for rent. The rest of the project is targeted for people with families living and working on the North Shore on low-to-moderate incomes.
“Really, the goal is to try to keep people in the communities where they currently live and work,” said Allyson Muir, executive director for Sanford. “It’s definitely a step in the right direction for affordability for average people working in the city so it’s really important.”
Of the 90 units, 63 per cent will have two or more bedrooms.
The District of North Vancouver is providing the land on the corner of Oxford and Orwell streets but the project still must go through a rezoning process and win the support of the new council. If all goes well, it could be four years before the new units come online, but Joy Hayden, innovation and engagement specialist at Hollyburn Family Services, said she is excited.
“To be able to say ‘We’re going to put you in safe, affordable, quality housing for life …’ we’re ecstatic,” she said.
But, Hayden added, there is still a tremendous need in the community, particularly for seniors and young people facing homelessness on the North Shore.
“We need long-term, permanent affordable housing. There hasn’t been an investment like this for decades,” she said. “Give us another 2,000 units and now we’re talking.”
The Kiwanis project received its rezoning and development permit from the district in September.
“We continued to work on all those things with our fingers and toes crossed in hopes the funding from BC Housing would arrive and enable us to have all the funding required to start construction,” said Patrick McLaughlin, Kiwanis president.
The rest of the project’s funding is coming from the equity Kiwanis raises through its more than 600 other seniors rental apartments, as well as a mortgage, McLaughlin said. Rents in the new project will be capped at 80 per cent of market rates. McLaughlin said he is hoping to get building permits approved next month and start construction in June.
The province selected the projects after vetting their business cases and viability, Ma said. “Our goal here is to try to get the biggest bang for our buck. We want as many homes as possible for our investment and we want these projects to be successful,” Ma said. “I can tell you that not very many days go by in my office when we do not hear from a person on the North Shore who is either already living in their car or on the street or very close to it.”