After a grant application was approved this spring, Wachiay Friendship Centre is waiting to clear the next hurdle for its planned housing project.
The organization had applied to BC Housing for funding from its Community Housing Fund and learned it was successful in early June.
“We thought that our application was really strong,” said Roger Kishi, Wachiay program co-ordinator of homeless and housing programs.
Another local project, a project by the Comox Valley Affordable Housing Society, was also approved for Comox. Many others, including ones in this area, were not. Kishi knows of seven here and 49 on Vancouver Island.
“There were a number of applications,” he said.
In July, Wachiay held an open house at the site, which currently functions as its parking lot on McPhee Avenue. There, they made plans available for the public to see the proposed five-storey building that will have 40 units.
The next step is to get the zoning in place for the project, and the consultants from M’akola Development Services have applied to the City of Courtenay. The city confirmed the project application is currently being reviewed by staff before the bylaw can proceed. The planning department is waiting for a submission in response to a letter sent to the applicant at the end of April. Once it gets a response, staff will prepare a report for council on the application.
The overall plan is to change the use designation from industrial to multi-residential and rezone the site from Industrial Two Zone (I-2) to a new Comprehensive Development Zone that is site-specific for the multi-residential development and indoor cultural gathering space.
As is the case in many places, the demand is high for affordable housing, says Kishi. While there is construction taking place in the Comox Valley, it is not necessarily helping many feeling the housing pinch most severely.
“Although there is a lot of construction, these are private market rentals,” he said.
For the Wachiay housing project, 20 per cent will be set at $375, or the income assistance shelter rate for a unit, 30 per cent at the low end of market value and half geared to income through subsidized rent.
Still, more homes are needed, Kishi said, adding that even buildings with longstanding rents can go up dramatically once a tenant leaves.
“As units turn over, the rents are going up,” he said. “It’s happening globally.”
Kishi said the proponents have been in contact with local and provincial government officials lately, and as to the amount of BC Housing funding they can expect, he expects they could find out about a project manager this month so they can begin work on the next phase.