There’s hope on the horizon for people seeking affordable housing in Nakusp.
Two agencies in the village say they’re confident they’ll be breaking ground on new projects next year to bring housing to people who need it most.
“We’re looking at land and property right now,” said Tim Payne, the executive director of Arrow Lakes-Slocan Community Services. “We’re in the process of negotiating with people who own locations now. We’re also looking at whether we’ll build on property that we now own.”
Payne says his agency has been working on affordable housing issues for a long time and has commissioned studies on needs and feasibility studies on the economics of the projects. He says the agency’s board has given the go-ahead to address the issue.
Now Payne says he’s got signals from provincial officials that help is coming on the affordable housing front. ALSCS wants to be fast out of the gate to respond to any initiative.
“Something is coming out, and the feeling I have is something is coming out soon,” he told Arrow Lakes News. “I just need to get everything together that would make us more eligible, to show them we are ready to move.”
While he can’t say what the size or scope of the new construction would be — a lot depends on just what the province will be offering — he says ALSCS has identified the kinds of groups it would develop housing for.
“We are looking at mixed housing, some services for people with disabilities, maybe single moms, lower-income, lower-barrier renters. Depending on who that might be, the project might take on different features,” he says.
“Some of the housing would be affordable, or subsidized, other units might be market-cost to help maintain the facility,” Payne said. “What we have to do right now is finalize the number of units we’re comfortable with and define who we want in them.”
ALSCS isn’t the only agency planning to break ground on new social housing in the new year. The Arrowtarians are also about to launch a fundraising campaign for a new nine-unit, three-story building for seniors.
“If all goes well we’ll put it out to tender in the spring, and construction would begin in 2018 and would be finished in 2019,” says Susan DeSandoli, the fundraising chair for the Arrowtarian project. “We’re looking positively at that, and getting ready.”
The Arrowtarian building would be constructed just across from the senior’s centre on property owned by the organization. It would provide 500-sq-ft units for seniors with mobility issues, she says.
The community group has applied for a Housing Innovation grant from BC Housing to pay for much of the $2.1 million project. That application still has to be approved. The Arrowtarians will also be raising $400,000 to cover the rest of the project’s costs.
The housing can’t come soon enough for people like Karen Horvath. When Arrow Lakes News spoke to her in November, she was living in a 20-foot vacation trailer on a friend’s property, after her trailer home burned down in the spring.
“I’m heating the place with a hot plate and a square space heater,” she said. “It’s like living in a tin can. I crawl under my blankets at night I can see my breath.”
With rents at $750 or more for a one-bedroom cabin, not including utilities, she says it’s impossible for someone to find housing who, like her, is on a disability pension.
“Basically it would be nice to have more on our disability cheques so we can afford that,” she said. “Hopefully nobody will end up like I am. Hopefully, people will reach out to people who need homes and give them a break.”
If Tim Payne’s gut feeling is right, that break is coming.
“I think the time is really right for us, right now, to have the opportunity to look at something that can handle a number of areas of diversity, low-income, low-barrier, etc.,” he said.
“The stars are aligning.”