Housing advocates on Denman Island are moving ahead with the next phase to develop new housing with an ecological edge in the community.
The Denman Housing Association has $95,000 in funding from BC Housing for this preparatory phase, with an eye toward being ready to apply to the provincial agency for capital funding in the late spring of 2020.
“We are extremely grateful to BC Housing for their support,” says DHA president Simon Palmer.
The project, once completed, is estimated to cost about $6.3 million.
For its part, BC Housing is exploring ways to support affordable housing that is energy-efficient and environmentally friendly.
“We know that communities across the province have been facing a shortage of affordable housing. Island communities also face a unique combination of challenges related to limited land and natural resources,” BC Housing senior communications advisor Andrea Coutts said.
BC Housing is also working to help build new homes on Cortes Island (four homes), Hornby Island (26 homes) and Salt Spring Island (80 homes). On Denman, the DHA site plan is designed to have 20 units that can house 49 people in four-plexes and duplexes on a 20-acre site.
“It’s called ‘Denman Green,’” says Palmer.
The site in question has to go through rezoning with Islands Trust, which could take another six to eight months, Palmer estimates. There is an agreement of intent for the DHA to acquire the land, located on Denman Road about a 10-minute walk from the core of Denman Island.
Housing has long been an issue on Denman, a community of about 1,000 people, as DHA studies have found there is a shortage of quality housing on the Island. While some residents choose to live off the grid, many simply cannot find quality housing and are forced to live in accommodations that often have no proper heating or toilet. Many squat in trailers or shacks.
A DHA survey in 2013 found that as many as 90 per cent of rental units were considered in some way to be inadequate, leaving many residents, existing on too little income, with no choice of where to live.
“We did a study in 2013 that showed 120 people, including 20 children, were in need of affordable housing,” Palmer says. “The Island total is only a thousand.”
The DHA plan is aimed at providing “green” housing but at an affordable level, with a stipulation that tenants at the site will pay no more than 30 per cent of their gross income for rent.
“You’ve got people on Denman paying 50, 60 per cent of their gross income,” Palmer says.
As part of the project, the DHA has also entered into a memorandum of understanding with Engineers for a Sustainable World: UBC Chapter, to develop ecologically designed infrastructure for the site – for example, rainwater harvesting technology. The team is made up of 16 people in engineering programs, with backgrounds in electrical, chemical and biological engineering.
This is one example of the preparatory work covered by the $95,000, which will also help with fees, surveys and studies.
The site will be powered with a 123-kW solar system designed to rely on net-zero energy consumption through a metering agreement with BC Hydro, meaning power can be sold back to the utility. Other components of the housing project include low-water toilets and grey water reuse.
“It’s going to be extremely energy-efficient,” says Palmer.