Yes – in my backyard

Neighbours, businesses, local governments step up to bring affordable housing to fruition

Wayne Reid and his wife watched from the kitchen window as crews tore out their poplar trees

At 15 metres in height, they were the tallest trees on the block, and, until recently, they provided a natural barrier between their yard and the adjoining commercial property.

“It’s left a mess in the backyard for a little while,” Reid said, examining the deep trench where the trees once stood. Blue metal fencing encroaches about a metre past the property line.

While saddened by the loss, the Reids agreed to let Knappett construction dig up their lawn to accommodate an affordable housing project.

“We wanted to support the project,” he said, adding the trees will be replaced, albeit with smaller ones.

Backing onto his Lotus Street lot, an underground parking lot takes shape at 21 Gorge Rd. E.

Reid and most of his neighbours have literally welcomed the project into their backyards – thereby saving an estimated $200,000 in construction costs.

Their acceptance starkly contrasts the Not-In-My-Backyard attitude that sometimes dogs social housing projects.

This project, due for completion by the end of the year, will include 52 units offering below-market rent to working families.

It’s a joint venture between the Greater Victoria Housing Society, the future operator, and a new player in the field; the Greater Victoria Rental Development Society formed in 2009.

Executive director Alanna Holroyd pitches the project as a new model for building affordable housing, not reliant on ongoing rental subsidies from government.

“This is a business model,” she emphasized, adding rental revenue alone should cover operating costs and pay off the mortgage.

“It needs to succeed because there’s only us to pay the bills,” she said.

As the developer, Holroyd purchased the land, secured a loan and hired contractors, such as Knappett, willing to work at a significantly reduced rate.

“Governments can’t (fund) it anymore so the corporations have to start doing it again,” she said.

Unlike most business models, however, Holroyd works as an unpaid volunteer, at least for now.

On Thursday, she gathered at the Gorge Road construction site for its official media launch, despite suffering from the flu.

“Go Canucks go!” she croaked into the mike, handing off her speech of thanks to a healthy colleague.

Mayor Dean Fortin announced Victoria’s $370,000 contribution. Oak Bay Mayor Christopher Causton, representing the Capital Region Housing Trust Fund, announced an equal contribution.

Under the shade of a white tent, North Saanich MLA Murray Coell highlighted the B.C. government’s commitment to families. The province, however, is the only level of government without any grant money on the table.

B.C. Housing’s mandate, under the 2006 Housing Matters program, is to fund housing for the homeless, explained Roger Butcher, Vancouver Island’s regional director. To this end, the province has doled out $30 million in grants toward five housing projects in Victoria.

Affordable housing projects, however, do not qualify for grants.

Whether the new Liberal government will broaden eligibility criteria is an open question.

“We’re kind of wondering … because our new premier, Christy Clark, has made a top priority of families,” Butcher said.

The province, however, still plays a role. Coell announced a $9.8-million mortgage loan, sourced from private investors. It’s value, explains Butcher, is a lower-than-market interest rate and an exemption from mortgage-insurance requirements. The exemption will save roughly $800,000, he said. “Every little bit helps to make a project like this work.”

After taking in the announcement, Reid strolled back to his house.

The project promises to be better than the Capri Motel, which used to occupy the site, he said.

Reid moved to the neighbourhood three years ago. Within days, police surrounded the now-demolished motel, with guns drawn. Officers evacuated the block.

“We didn’t want something similar to go back in,” said Reid.

rholmen@vicnews.com

 

At a glance

The 21 Gorge Rd. East affordable housing project:

Capital cost: $12.7 million

52 units (51 two-bedroom)

Rent: $1,100 to $1,350

 

 

Just Posted

Langford considers regulating sale of spray paint following string of vandalism

Regulations could involve restricting sale to minors, locking up spray paint

French Open at Bear Mountain serves a winner

The US Open is scheduled for Sept. 3 to 8 on the hardcourts at Henderson Park in Oak Bay

Union Club of B.C. votes in its first female president

16-year member Grace Van den Brink previously served as vice president

Alzheimer Society calls for helpline volunteers in Greater Victoria

Charity is in ‘urgent need’ as calls on the rise

$11 million overdraw for McKenzie Interchange construction

The project has been delayed multiple times and is now estimating a budget of $96 million

VIDEO: Trans Mountain expansion project gets green light, again

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the decision in Ottawa on Tuesday afternoon

Greater Victoria wanted list for the week of June 18

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

POLL: Do you support the government’s decision to approve the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion?

The federal government announced Tuesday its approval for the Trans Mountain pipeline… Continue reading

MPs hear retired B.C. nurse’s petition to change compensation for fatal medical errors

Teri McGrath wants provinces to implement no-fault system for medical errors

Horgan says he’ll still defend B.C. coast after second Trans Mountain approval

Meanwhile, one B.C. First Nation has announced plans for a legal challenge

VIDEO: Firefighters stop blaze from spreading after BMW crashes at Saratoga Speedway

Victoria-based businessmen were ‘corner training’ on Father’s Day when incident took place

Demonstrators on either side of Trans Mountain debate clash in Vancouver

Crowd heard from member of Indigenous-led coalition that hopes to buy 51% of expansion project

Grieving B.C. mom hopes Facebook message leads to new investigation into son’s Surrey homicide

Criminal Justice Branch didn’t lay charges, concluding no substantial likelihood of murder or manslaughter conviction

Ginger Goodwin’s Cumberland cemetery grave desecrated

Just days before the Miners Memorial weekend, Ginger Goodwin’s grave has been… Continue reading

Most Read