Today’s Poll

Lakeside development set to move to next stage

Timothy Schafer
By Timothy Schafer
May 18th, 2016

A new housing project aimed at alleviating the affordable housing stress on two facets of Nelson’s population is moving toward realization.

Lakeside Place is a proposed three-storey structure aimed at low-income seniors and people with disabilities, and on Monday night the proponents of the development — Nelson Cares Society — appeared before city council to ask for its support.

The building would help provide homes for those who are pushed to the fringe of the spectrum in the search for affordable housing situations, said Jenny Robinson, executive director for Nelson Cares.

“The vacancy rates are so low in Nelson and have been consistently that we don’t think it’s a blip, we think it is an ongoing issue for the community,” said Robinson.

The proposed project would support people in the community with a demonstrated need, she said, like seniors. A wait list of almost 100 sits at Cedar Grove Estates — and only 22 units are available for seniors at that site.

“So seniors are really a growing demographic for our community that needs to be addressed,” said Robinson.

Council later voted to move the decision on writing the letter to the next regular city council meeting.

The development at Lakeside Place has been several years in the making. In 2012 Nelson Cares took on the assets of the Nelson and District Housing Society — a move accepted by BC Housing.

However, the one condition was to pursue the redevelopment of Lakeside Place. That concept has been on the books for four years, said the chair of the Nelson Cares board, Ron Little.

In anticipation of new provincial funding, Nelson Cares began the planning of the redevelopment last year.

City Spaces consulting was hired at the beginning of the year to look into the property at Lakeside Place, and complete a sensibility study for its redevelopment, said chair of housing committee, Daphne Powell.

That study is now drafted. The city’s own Affordable Housing Strategy, also written by City Spaces, identified six groups with the greatest challenges in finding affordable and suitable housing in Nelson: at risk youth and young adults; persons with disabilities; low income seniors; low income families; person with mental health and addiction issues; and people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.

“Our project at Lakeside Place responds to that strategy and will provide housing to low income seniors and persons with disabilities,” Powell said.

The lot is perfect for redevelopment, she added. Zoning allows for it — with the land currently zoned mixed residential commercial — and the lot is big enough to accommodate new housing on it. As well, the property is wholly owned by Nelson Cares.

The group is looking at the redevelopment of the four buildings to the south of the site which currently consist of 20 residential units. The building at the north end of the site would be retained, where eight residential units were built in 2001.

The other buildings on the site were constructed in the 1950s as a motel, converted in 2001 to affordable housing units. The foundation of the old motel is sinking, said Powell.

“But those buildings are approaching a point where financial investment will be required if they are to be maintained,” she said.

The proposed redevelopment would consist of one new building that would be three stories in height. That development could accommodate 39 residential units that would consist of 33 one-bedroom units (570 square feet in size), along with six supportive housing studios (350 sq. ft.).

The new proposed building would have its main entrance on Nelson Ave. and take advantage of the sloping site, allowing some underground parking with access from Kokanee Street.

Along with the redevelopment of the aging buildings, there is an opportunity to improve the corner of Kokanee and Nelson, “a rather bleak, dead-end street,” said Powell.

Nelson Cares would improve it with additional landscaping, and improve the access on Kokanee.

Robinson said the project was a “rare kind” of thing,

“BC Housing typically in the past has offered subsidies for new-build capital,” she said. “In this case they are not, so it’s new territory for all of us.”

The mix in the building would be “somewhat” market-rate units, with 18 units below market value.

There are 20 people currently living on the site and they are scheduled for re-housing into Nelson Cares’ current stock.

Full capital cost is sitting at just over $7.5 million, and Nelson Cares is looking at an equity investment from BC Housing at just over $5 million.

The organization will be making a submission, an expression of interest, under the BC Housing Provincial Investment in Affordable Housing (PIAH) application process by the June 15 deadline.

Nelson Cares will also refine its pro-forma financial model as part of its next step, and will also consider an appropriate debt to equity ratio.

The social housing group will confirm the development’s housing mix before reviewing the entire project with city planning staff.

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