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Chamber pulling together package for unique housing project

Timothy Schafer Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
By Timothy Schafer Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
June 9th, 2024

Desperate times call for different measures.

With Nelson and area housing reports touting a zero per cent or near zero per cent vacancy rate for more than five years, a very atypical 55-unit housing project is being put forth by the Nelson and District Chamber of Commerce.

Proposed for “underutilized” chamber-owned property — next to the Station at 91 Baker Street — a workforce housing project is taking a unique approach. The project will work directly with businesses — that will hold the “head” leases — and subsequently lease directly to an employee. Final details are still being put together on the final lease structure.

“Recruitment and retaining staff in most sectors has been extremely challenging due to the lack of purpose-built rental apartments,” noted a press release from the chamber announcing the project. “The chamber board and BC Builds feel this project is vital to assist with this sector of under-served, purpose-built workforce housing rental units.”

All of the projects that have come through Nelson recently — from student housing, seniors housing to supportive housing — have been supported by the chamber, said chamber executive director Tom Thomson.

“The chamber of commerce and our Economic Development partners have been hearing the message loud and clear for several years and have been actively searching for opportunities to construct additional workforce housing for our local and regional businesses,” he said. “Workforce housing has been at the top of the strategic plan in recent years.”

It was noted that one of the major partners in the project, BC Builds, uses government borrowing rates that are lower to offer lower-cost financing and grants to bring down construction costs of the studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom rental units.

“We are working closely with a development team (Workforce Housing Solutions Inc), the City of Nelson and BC Builds to move the project from concept to construction,” said Thomson.

“There are still a few hurdles to overcome, but we are working closely with regulatory officials with the Ministry of Environment and neighbouring property owners to mitigate

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