It’s early 2021, but already the Denman Housing Association’s Denman Green project has seen a couple of plot twists.
Like so many things last year, the affordable housing project faced delays, which unfortunately put it months behind and led to the end of an arrangement with the landowner by year’s end.
“Everything was pushed back, back, back,” says the DHA’s Simon Palmer. “We came up against the expiration of the agreement.”
What followed was some weeks of uncertainty, but the association now has an agreement in the making with another landowner for a plot of land of just over one hectare at Kirk Road near the village core on Denman. The deal will have to be formalized, which will require rezoning through Islands Trust, according to Palmer, who clarified the rezoning application is now going before the trust.
“We went through this with the first lot,” Palmer said.
The move is requiring the transfer of density provisions attached to other properties on the island. A friend of the association, Palmer said, has agreed to transfer a few of these from land plots she owns to the owner of the Kirk Road site so that he can use them to develop other land he has on Denman. The DHA can then take over title on Kirk Road and use it for Denman Green.
The project has been in the works for a few years. The association wants to build a 20-unit complex in two-storey triplexes and quadruplexes that would house, by its calculations, 49 people.
Palmer admits there is much greater demand for affordable housing on Denman than what Denman Green can provide, but it provides a starting point. Both DHA and Islands Trust have conducted studies pointing to the need for more housing on Denman. The DHA study from 2013 found at that time most renters were living in places that were inadequate in some way. On top of this, many were paying more than half of their gross income.
In 2018, Islands Trust completed housing needs assessments for several of its partner communities, including Denman, in order to help governments plan and develop housing strategies. It reiterated similar points raised by Denman’s own study.
“Far too many of our island neighbours have a lack of housing security, with many forced to vacate during the summer season. Others live in substandard housing with serious potential health and safety risks. Others pay unsustainable amounts,” Islands Trust Council chair Peter Luckham said in a news release.
While some of the islands have faced declining populations, the study showed Denman experienced a 6.4 per cent increase from 2006 to 2016 with projections for more, meaning more pressure on the housing situation.
In addition to providing homes, the DHA wants Denman Green to live up to its name by making the homes as environmentally sustainable as possible but reducing water consumption through means such as reusing greywater for toilets and making the home produce their own power. It has worked with students from UBC on reusing rainwater for the project. It also has an arrangement with energy efficiency consultant Roger Chayer, Palmer says, to help increase the project’s sustainability standards.
“These buildings are going to be extremely efficient,” he adds.
Elements such as water though were, in part, what caused delays, as DHA had hoped for Island Health approval on the water systems, but the agency was pulled in other directions in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’re living on an island where people are water conscious,” Palmer says.
The hope now, he says, is to move ahead with the rezoning and the land transfer. Once that happens, the association expects to work on applications to provincial and federal agencies, such as BC Housing and the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, for help with capital costs.
“We can only apply once we get title to the land,” he adds.