Courtenay project called ‘truly affordable housing’

A proposal to build 33 smaller rental units on Cumberland Road in Courtenay is being hailed as "truly affordable housing."

A proposal to build 33 smaller rental units on Cumberland Road in Courtenay is being hailed as “truly affordable housing.”

Courtenay council received an application from Mathot Homes Ltd. to amend the city’s zoning bylaw to create a new Comprehensive Development Twenty-Three Zone at 703, 721 and 745 Cumberland Rd. last week.

The amendment would allow for a multi-residential development with small single-occupancy bachelor-type rental units of 300 to 350 square feet on a vacant triangular site at Cumberland Road and Ninth Street.

The property is already designated as Multi-Residential in Courtenay’s Official Community Plan. There was once a service station on the site, and the property has been cleared of environmental concerns.

“I’d say this is the first type of proposal like this in the city that we’ve seen in a number of years,” planning services director Peter Crawford told council. “If we look at the direction we have within our Official Community Plan about mixing uses and trying to put more density in our downtown district, giving a mix of housing types, this would meet those goals.”

The proposed project is three storeys with 33 units, and the units on the bottom floor would be wheelchair-accessible, while all the units would be wheelchair-friendly, explained Crawford.

“You look at the area, you look at the potential, and you look at the balance of it, we feel it’s certainly worthy of going to the neighbourhood and seeking input,” he said.

The property is beside an auto repair facility, and if the proposal moves forward, there would be a covenant specifying that the tenants accept that the location is adjacent to industrial uses and, therefore, has potential for noise and odours.

“The proposed development contributes positively to the rental housing stock,” senior planner Gina MacKay and Crawford wrote in their report to council. “The proposed small units will provide an opportunity for clean, safe, convenient housing for those on fixed incomes. Two of the units will be fully wheelchair accessible; all main floor units will be wheelchair friendly.

“Units on the second and third floor will have both elevator and stairway access, thus making them suitable for people with mobility problems or elderly members of the community. The proximity to public transportation also makes this an ideal housing site for students and those working in minimum-pay jobs.”

Councillors supported the project.

“It’s an empty lot that’s been sitting there since the gas station vacated, and it’s just a waste of property, and what Mathot Homes is proposing I think is excellent for that site,” said Coun. Murray Presley. “It’s providing affordable housing for people, and everything virtually is within walking distance from that location.”

Coun. Jon Ambler pointed out that “affordable market housing” encompasses much more than just the price of a home. If you need to drive from your home to work, it adds a lot of extra costs, and it could become affordable, he explained.

With this proposal, the homes would be close enough to downtown for people who work there to walk or cycle to their jobs, and the homes would be close to public transportation, noted Ambler.

“This is a step in the right direction, and this is what I would call truly affordable housing, not just low-price housing,” he said.

Coun. Manno Theos felt the proposed units would be perfect for students, someone with a disability or someone on a fixed income such as a pensioner.

“This project has an opportunity to address some of our real concerns in the community,” he said. “When it’s difficult to find rental opportunities that are under $800 a month, it eliminates a lot of possibilities for many people. I think this really has potential, and hopefully we’ll see this project succeed and others like it come forward.”

A public hearing regarding the proposal will be held Nov. 7 at 5 p.m. in the City Hall council chambers.

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