Supportive housing project takes next step

The City of Courtenay is to prepare an RFP to select an operator for a proposed supportive housing complex on the east side of town.

Courtenay council has directed city staff to prepare a Request for Proposal to select a non-profit organization or other qualified group to operate a proposed supportive housing complex on the east side of town.

The 30-unit complex at 810 Braidwood Rd. would not be a homeless shelter but would address a “wide range of in-need and at-risk tenants,” CAO David Allen states in a report. Along with the working poor and the homeless, the units could also accommodate families with children and seniors.

“Expanding the range of people who can be serviced is the way to go,” Coun. Ronna-Rae Leonard said Tuesday.

“I’m pleased to hear we’re considering seniors and families,” Coun. Starr Winchester said.

Money is available to construct the building, but the issue is annual operating funds.

Leonard suggests money might be found by other means, such as enterprising non-profits, if senior governments cannot cough up funds. BC Housing has provided $50,000 in the form of a loan but has indicated no operating subsidies will be available.

“How are we to maintain it? We have to be innovative,” said Leonard, concerned about the service component.

The city has retained the services of social planning consultant John Jessup, who has met with neighbourhood residents about the Braidwood project, which council has identified as its top priority for 2014.

At a previous meeting, Jessup suggested applying to the Real Estate Foundation’s capital program for operating funds.

Annual operating costs are estimated between $550,000 and $575,000 in the first year, depending on construction costs and mortgage interest rates. Jessup recommends having two staff members working at all times, considering problems are likely to arise with some of the more acute clients.

He suggests issuing the RFP in the first week of October, and appointing a housing provider to develop the Braidwood site by Dec. 15. In the meantime, staff will look into costs of a hazmat survey of the existing house, and of geotechnical and engineering surveys to determine water, sanitary and storm system capacities.

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