Today’s Poll

SHARE Affordable Housing one step closer

Suzy Hamilton
By Suzy Hamilton
April 23rd, 2015

Small is beautiful, especially if it’s affordable.

There’s a shortage of studio suites in Nelson, and the SHARE Housing Initiative is aiming to fill part of that need.

A cross section of some 50 Nelson residents met with the project’s proponent—Kootenay Christian Fellowship (KCF)—on April 21 to offer insights and suggestions for the proposed 40 unit affordable housing complex.

Although anyone seeking a small downtown residential unit may find this appealing, the target market is for lower income earners.

For example, “This will be housing for the young person who works at WalMart or downtown and can’t afford housing,” said Mike McIndoe who was the first of four people to speak, before the group divided into two focus groups.

Designed by Cover Architectural Collaborative Inc in Nelson, the plan is to build a 3.5 story commercial business/residence mix on the land between the KCF building that houses Our Daily Bread kitchen and the highway that runs below.

The SHARE used goods store would move into the first floor with additional commercial rental space available there and in the basement below. The second and third floors would house 32 studio suites and eight one bedrooms that would rent for $600 and $800 respectively.

The units would run between 250 sq. ft. and 600 sq. ft.

“Small living is part of an emerging trend,” said Cover architect Rob Stacey. “By living small, you can make it affordable.”

Stacey said that it was a tight squeeze with Nelson’s topography, but that the location and the potential for a green building made the project exciting. “It’s a tricky site,” he said.

“This is one configuration, we expect it will change.”

Whatever the configuration, there’s one big hurdle to overcome and that’s the $1.9 million equity contribution needed to bring off the project. The total value of the complex is $6.5 million.

A proposed mortgage would cover $4.1 million, and the $437,000 piece of land is already owned by the KCF and would be donated to the project.

The intent is to break even and be sustainable. Preliminary figures indicate that annual rentals would bring in $500,000 with projected expenses just under that amount.

Money is not the only challenge. The groups identified other ones as well, such as traffic flow,  parking space, highway noise,  design constraints, density and a timeline of two years.

But opportunities such as energy conservation, employment, business partnerships and economic growth could present themselves as well, the break-out groups suggested.

The location, affordability, proximity to Our Daily Bread and SHARE were some of  strengths of the project that the groups identified.

Basically, a tenant would have to make $12.30 an hour to afford a studio apartment, and $16.41 to move into a one bedroom, if the rents are kept at $600 and $800 per month.

“The time is right,” said Pastor Jim Reimer who speaks for the KCF. Nearly one half of the rental market in Nelson is more than 50 years old and in poor repair.

“You have to see the need and seize the opportunity,” he said, emphasizing that the project would not compete with other housing proposals in the works.

“We want to work with all the community groups,” he said. “We are targeting needs that are not being met.

“This is great,” he said at the end of the meeting. “We got some great ideas…and the team wants to keep moving forward.”

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