The Wachiay Friendship Centre hopes to convert its parking lot into a building with living units and a cultural gathering space. Scott Stanfield photo

The Wachiay Friendship Centre hopes to convert its parking lot into a building with living units and a cultural gathering space. Scott Stanfield photo

Friendship Centre proposes affordable housing project on its Courtenay property

The Wachiay Friendship Centre hopes to turn its parking lot at 17th and McPhee into a five-storey wood frame building with 40 living units. Pending the outcome of an application to BC Housing, the suites will be studio and one-bedroom units.

Wachiay has applied for assistance from a Community Housing Fund, which sets a rent structure. Twenty per cent of units would be at the income assistance shelter rate of $375 for a single, 50 per cent would be rent geared to income (subsidized rent), and 30 per cent would be at the low end of market.

“If we’re successful with it, we’re hoping to provide some of the one bedroom accessible units at shelter rate,” said Roger Kishi, Wachiay’s program co-ordinator of homeless and housing programs. “It’s still very early going. We’re hopeful that we’ll be successful.”

M’akola Development Services — Wachiay’s development consultant — has applied to the City of Courtenay for rezoning at 1679 McPhee Ave.

“I think a clear strength of the project is its proximity to the Friendship Centre, so that tenants will be able to access the existing programs and services that Wachiay offers the community, while providing safe, affordable, and high-quality housing,” said Lindsay Monk, manager of development at M’akola.

Kishi notes that a Regional Housing Needs Assessment and the provincial Rental Housing Index illustrates the need for hundreds of living units in the community.

“It’s nice to see all this market rental housing being built in the Comox Valley, but they’re not very affordable,” Kishi said, noting market rents for studios can run as high as $1,100 per month.

Along with living units, the building would also contain an indoor cultural gathering space for Indigenous Elders and singles.

“We think it would be an integral part of the building,” Kishi said.

Besides BC Housing, Wachiay and M’akola are also pursuing funding through the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.

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