The plan is for a three-storey, multi-family building on Second Street. Photo by Mike Chouinard

Cumberland considers social housing proposal

Plan is for three-storey, multi-family building on Island Health land

A couple of organizations are applying to build a social housing apartment block in Cumberland.

At the most recent meeting on Aug. 10, council considered an official community plan (OCP) amendment and rezoning application for properties on Second Street that would allow for the construction of the 23-unit apartment.

The move will require the consolidation of three adjacent lots, owned by Island Health, for the housing. It would lease the properties to the Comox Valley Transition Society and Dawn to Dawn – Action on Homelessness Society to operate the building. The two groups have received preliminary funding from BC Housing and are looking for full development and construction costs from Building BC.

The proposal is for a three-storey building with one single-bedroom unit, four two-bedroom units, 15 three-bedroom units and three four-bedroom units.

There is a covenant on the sites stating the properties are to be developed to provide affordable housing.

“It would be affordable rentals,” senior planner Karin Albert told council during a presentation. “It would require creation of a new zone.”

RELATED STORY: New rental housing project in Courtenay to help mid-income earners

As part of the process to amend the OCP from DPA6 – Residential Infill to DPA7 – Multi-family, there are provisions for landscaping and recreation or play areas on site.

Albert said, if with the new zoning created, there will need to be a variance to provide setback allowances. Parking also would present an issue based on the number of zones required. For 23 stalls, there would likely be eight on site, with cash in lieu offered to cover the remaining 15 spots.

There have been some preliminary comments, Albert said, about traffic, noise, light, existing infrastructure and parking space. The applicants have already sought feedback prior to any formal public hearing through the Village, and they will also be holding a public information session slated for the morning of Thursday, Aug. 27 at the proposed site.

On council, there was definite enthusiasm for the idea of social housing. Coun. Jesse Ketler said she was happy to see the plan come before council, adding the issue had been on the agenda for the affordable housing committee for several years, with members laying the groundwork for a project to provide more housing for the community.

“The need is so great,” she said, adding, “It really is for families…. I really like the design.”

Coun. Vickey Brown also was pleased to see the proposal come forward. She did raise a few questions, including why the zoning would cover four storeys, even though the proposed structure is three. She wondered whether they could look at three storeys with higher ceilings. She also asked about the accessibility of the property, adding she would like the matter sent to council’s accessibility committee for comment.

Council approved a motion to refer the plans to the homelessness and affordable housing committees, advisory planning commission and accessibility committee.

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