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LRCA low-income housing project ‘months away’ from on-site work

The project will provide 36 units for three main groups: seniors, families, and disabled people
The abandoned church sits on the 314 Buller Street site scheduled to be redeveloped for low-income housing. (Cole Schisler photo)

The long-awaited Ladysmith Resources Centre Association low-income housing project is one step closer to fruition after Town council granted the project a 100 percent waiver of development fees Monday.

The project will provide 36 units of housing for three primary groups: seniors, families, and persons with disabilities. The project is expected to be made up of mostly one-bedroom units with a mix of studio apartment spaces, and two-bedroom units as well. The final composition is still being determined by the LRCA and BC Housing.

“We’re probably months away from seeing activity on the site,” vice president and chair of the building committee, Guido Weisz said. “We are in what we call the ‘development stage.’”

BC Housing awarded $3.6 million for the project, as well as a $500,000 demand loan so the LRCA can move forward.

RELATED: LRCA receives $3.6-million in provincial funding for affordable housing project

“We are now able to move forward with design features, improving our plans around the housing project, looking at things like energy modelling, geo-tech work, clearing the site, all those things are now possible for us to move forward because we have additional resources to do it,” Weisz said.

Weisz says the estimated cost of the project is close to $10 million. That estimate will be adjusted as the building materials are chosen and the energy efficiency of the building is determined. Despite the large gap in available funds to complete the project, Weisz is confident it will be completed.

“There’s always a possibility that at some point in time that we would say, ‘this is not going to work’, but that’s not a scenario that’s very likely. We’ve gone through basic designs, an outline of the program with BC Housing, and they have given us their assurances that they are very supportive of this project,” he said.

The LRCA is working with BC Housing to secure operational subsidies to cover costs alongside the work done to build the project.

Low income housing is typically funded through a mix of government grants, subsidies, and mortgages that cover a bulk of capital costs. LRCA’s housing is a non-profit housing project. Revenue from rent will go toward payment of the mortgage and loans required to build.

The project site on Buller Street is within a block of the Ladysmith Resources Centre. This close proximity will allow the LRCA to provide residents with improved access to exisitng services. The project, however, is not supportive housing.

“We are going to be bringing programs and services… we can begin not only to build a building, it’s not just bricks and mortar, it is building a community,” Weisz said. “One of the great aspects about the LRCA is we already have a set of programs and services that can directly help in that creation.”

RELATED: LRCA’s affordable housing project moves to public hearing stage

LRCA executive director Christy Wood said that the LRCA will offer social supports, and fill in the gaps around the housing continuum of Ladysmith.

“They’ll be able to access all the programs and services we offer here,” she said. “We have housing support services where we can help people who are precariously housed, with a one-time rent payment, or if they need a bed, kitchen utensils, or transportation support to social assistance.

“But we don’t have the other areas of the continuum with housing, so we’re trying to build that, so that way we can give a holistic kind of care. We do hear people on a daily basis coming in and asking if we know of any available housing.”

Before the project is shovel-ready, there are some steps left to take for the LRCA. The next visual step will be the clearing of the old Anglican church that currently occupies the site, as well as geo-tech work to see how water runs beneath the property. The LRCA is working to coordinate with contractors, and continue negotiations with BC Housing to determine how the finished project will come together.

Wood and Weisz are well aware of challenges that come with development, and want to make sure the project is not just dropped into the community, but that it fits with Ladysmith, and serves the community’s needs.

“It’s a community project, and community support has helped us very much to get where we’re at. We’re very thankful for the support we’ve gotten from the community, it’s been amazing,” Weisz said. “We will continue to depend and rely on community support as we move this forward.”

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