Roger Kishi of the Wachiay Friendship Centre says a few words at a Thursday ceremony to open the Braidwood affordable rental homes in Courtenay. Scott Stanfield photo

Roger Kishi of the Wachiay Friendship Centre says a few words at a Thursday ceremony to open the Braidwood affordable rental homes in Courtenay. Scott Stanfield photo

Affordable rental housing complex opens in Courtenay

The Braidwood facility will house 34 people at risk of homelessness

The first few tenants have moved into the long-awaited Braidwood affordable rental housing complex in East Courtenay.

Located at 810 Braidwood Rd., the three-storey building contains 35 studio and one-bedroom apartments — including a manager’s residence — for individuals with low to moderate incomes, and those at risk of homelessness, including Indigenous peoples. The building includes a common room, office space and bicycle storage. Outreach, counselling and other supports will be offered to tenants.

“It’s truly heart-warming to think that moving into one of these homes could be the turning point in the lives of these residents who are struggling to make ends meet,” Courtenay-Comox MLA Ronna-Rae Leonard said Thursday at a ceremony to open the apartments. “The Comox Valley is no different than any other region in the province in the need for more, and better affordable housing options. This is especially true for Indigenous people who we know, unfortunately, are more likely than non-Indigenous people to be living in unsafe and over-crowded conditions, and this cannot continue.”

M’akola Development Services/M’akola Housing Society and the Wachiay Friendship Centre are the non-profit operators of the complex. Six of the units will be rented at the provincial shelter rate of $375 per month through referrals from Wachiay. Monthly rents for the other units will range from $580 to $760.

“I see this as a real turning moment,” said Courtenay Mayor Bob Wells, noting the development of housing strategies by senior governments. “This building wasn’t years to build, it was decades. People in our community have been working for a long time to make this happen…It’s hopefully just the beginning.”

BC Housing has provided nearly $4.7 million for the project. Initially, the plan was to build across the street from Courtenay City Hall. In 2010, the regional district had purchased a trio of Cliffe Avenue lots for emergency shelter/supportive housing purposes, but some neighboring businesses did not like the idea. The CVRD then transferred ownership of the properties to the City, which later purchased the Braidwood property.

“It overwhelms me that we’re at this place now where we’re moving people into these housing units,” said Roger Kishi, Wachiay’s director of homeless and housing programs. “It’s giving a hand up to people who have been maybe on hard times. The tenants that we have moving in, there’s a huge diversity of people. I think that we’re building a community within this building itself, as well.”

M’akola CEO Kevin Albers expects all 35 units will be filled within weeks.