The Province announced it will provide $2.7 million in funding for affordable rental housing in Smithers and Telkwa last week.
Smithers Community Service Association (SCSA) received $1.5 million in funding to build 15 housing units. Telkwa Senior Housing Society will be receiving $1.2 million in funding to build 12 units for seniors.
“We really appreciate the confidence that B.C. housing has shown in us as an organization and we’ve have a lot of dialoguing to do with the Town and with B.C. housing to see how this can move forward and benefit the community,” SCSA executive director Cathryn Olmstead said.
The homes will be two bedroom units that are about 700 square feet.
“We’re hoping to increase the stock of two bedroom units so that we can address the housing needs of people who have been on the waiting list for a very long time,” Olmstead said. “[This project will] help meet that need for folks who are in situation where they’re really working hard to make ends meet and just need a place they can afford to rent that is clean and safe.”
The organization is still working out the details but Olmstead said rent may be somewhere between $750 and $900.
Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing media relations officer Lindsay Byers said the project has received provisional funding — meaning it’s not set in stone but they will work the association over the next few months to finalize the project.
Byers said the proposed location for the homes will be 1621 Main Street, which is by the building that houses Saltos Gymnastics.
Olmstead said they need to look into whether the project can be financially feasible and other details before they can get a commitment from B.C. housing.
The earliest construction could begin would be next year, Olmstead said.
The SCSA would be the property owner and developer of the proposed homes.
Over 4,900 affordable homes across 42 communities will be built as part of the province’s Building BC: Community Housing Fund initiative.
The program is a $1.9-billion investment plan over 10 years to build more than 14,000 affordable rental homes for seniors, families and low- and middle-income earners.
“Through the community housing fund, we are building housing so that growing families, aging seniors and low- to moderate-income individuals can afford homes in the communities they live and work in,” said Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Selina Robinson in a press release. “These new homes will have life-changing impacts for people and communities right across the province.”
Roadhouse owner Moe Kafer said she welcomes the new funding as many of her cooks are struggling to find places to live.
Kafer told Smithers Town council over the summer her industry is facing severe staffing issues in part because there aren’t a lot of affordable housing options avilable in Smithers.
“There’s a lot of jobs out there and we could fill them better if we actually had somewhere for people to live,” Kafer said.
Roadhouse employee Robert Wagner said he was looking for apartments two months ago and almost everything was out of his price range.
Wagner believes providing affordable housing for low income or part-time workers will actually increase productivity.
“If you’re not too worried about your housing situation you can be more ready for work … and not carry all that stress and anxiety all the time,” Wagner said.
Telkwa Senior Housing Society president John McDivitt said he was on cloud nine when he got the news his organization will be receiving $1.2 million in funding to build 12 homes for seniors.
“We need this in the valley,” McDivitt said. “A lot of people say ‘why Telkwa’ — why not Telkwa? Sure we’re small but we’re good … and we deserve something like this.”
The new homes will be one bedroom units that include washers and dryers, and are just over 600 square feet, McDivitt said.
The proposed location will be Hankin Avenue and Second Street.
Construction on the new homes, which will be modular units, will begin in spring and is expected to be completed by next December.
The housing society has not decided what rent will be for these new units. McDivitt said the housing society will own the new homes.