A 17 unit housing project dedicated to both individuals with developmental disabilities and seniors may start going up in Smithers this spring.
Dik Tiy Housing Society isworking with B.C. Housing to build the estimated $3.4 million project at the corner of Main Street and Sixteenth Avenue.
Dik Tiy president and High Road Services Society board member Murray Hawse said they have been working on this project for a number of years.
“In Smithers, the vacancy rate is very low as everyone knows, so it’s hard to find places that we can rent or buy and renovate that our clients can afford to go into because most of them are on a disability pension of just over $900 a month. It doesn’t leave them a lot to live on,” said Hawse.
Low income seniors would play an important role as residents.
“We thought there was an opportunity there for some seniors to be integrated with some of the special needs residents, and they can actually help out in some ways.
“A lot of times they are looking for opportunities to volunteer, and if we can create some affordable housing for them they can help us out on the other side. It’s good for everybody,” explained Hawse.
B.C. Housing had originally committed $1.2 million of the cost, but has now offered to cover the entire $3.4 million. Under this new plan, B.C. Housing would own the building while Dik Tiy would operate it.
“Because of the way the project was coming in and what B.C. Housing’s criteria for affordable housing was, they felt that because we were going to have to finance it, they’d still like to see the rents lower; so they just thought that they’d take on the whole project themselves,” said Hawse.
The original plan was for a two-storey building, but it may be tweaked by B.C. Housing.
“They may come back and make it three storeys, we’re not sure. That’s what we’re working on now finalizing the project. They’ll try and do it as cost effective as they can,” said Hawse.
The location was chosen by High Road several years ago with the intent of building affordable housing according to Hawse.
“We figured it’s a good location: it’s close enough to the downtown core that people who don’t drive, and most of our clients don’t drive — many seniors or low income people don’t have cars — so that way it’s close to all the facilities they need to get to,” explained Hawse.
Dik Tiy approached town council last Tuesday with a list of eight requests to help make it easier to get the project started.
They included getting tax exemptions, providing exemptions for off-site improvements like sidewalks and curbs, extending the sidewalk on Main Street to the site across from the Hill Top Inn, relaxing parking requirements, waiving permit and fee costs, and extending water and sewer services to the property.
Council decided to hold off on any decisions until a more formal plan was presented to the town’s development services department.
Mayor Taylor Bachrach said discussions with Dik Tiy have been going on for several months, going back to the previous council.
“I think it’s a great project. I’d love to see us adding to the diversity of our housing stock and ensuring that people who need affordable housing options are well served, and that’s certainly what their organization is trying to do with this project,” said Bachrach.
The mayor said the request made was not unusual for projects of this kind.
“We do have a development variance process, and it would be through that process when we would see the whole plan; see what the building looked like and how it was configured. It would be better to consider the plan at that stage.”
Donations to the housing project can be made by contacting the High Road Services Society at 250-847-2285.