The Glacier View Lodge Society is garnering public feedback about its idea to construct affordable, low-barrier housing at its 42-acre property on Back Road in Courtenay. To help realize the vision, the non-profit has enlisted the services of Vancouver Island University planning students, who organized an open house Monday at the Little Red Church in Comox.
“We feel a very strong obligation to the community to use this land in a way that serves the community,” said GVL board chair James Taylor, who has visited with 160 Glacier View neighbours since the idea was first proposed. “Without exception, people said we absolutely support affordable housing for seniors. I was stunned. The biggest problem with any development is pushback from the community.”
The society hopes to serve people who are not being served by market rental. Along with the Comox Valley Community Health Network and the Coalition To End Homelessness, GVL compiled a Senior Housing Needs Assessment, which considered housing types, rental payments and arrangements, transportation and other factors.
The coalition’s last Point in Time Count determined that seniors comprise 29 per cent of the local homeless population.
“If we’re able to make this work, I would think the first phase is going to be affordable housing for seniors,” Taylor said. “How we can make this happen, I do not know. Any development takes money, and that’s why we’re asking Vancouver Island University students and their profs to help us try and figure that out.”
Along with organizing the open house, students developed a second survey to gather ideas about using the land.
“It’s a bit of a win-win,” said Miko Betanzo, urban design professor at VIU. “We can offer a lot of free manpower. If we can put together a document, and a vision that garners interest and gets people excited about what you could possibly do here, that’s a plus for everyone.”
He said students have developed a visioning document akin to a “small-scale Official Community Plan” that sets goals, and development ideas and principles.
“We’re finally, as a society, coming to understand the housing problem that we’re facing,” said local architect Tom Dishlevoy, who attended the open house. He supports affordable seniors housing but takes issue with developing a greenfield site. “Density needs to go where the services are. A lot has to go right for this to go forward…The only way you’re going to get it to be affordable is to subsidize it somehow. And the public has to own it.”
Taylor said the community needs to decide if this idea is something that is needed in the Comox Valley. If so, it requires support from BC Housing, federal government grants and from a developer. He is fully aware of the magnitude of the proposal. Quoting rates from 2016, he said the cost to install 135 serviced lots was just shy of $12 million.
The lodge will next host a ‘charette for stakeholders’ on Monday, Jan. 27, from 1-4 p.m. at the Little Red Church.
“It will be a combination of people with so-called ‘lived experience’,” Taylor said. “These are people who are maybe homeless or in trouble, mixing with professionals.”