Before unanimously granting first and second reading to a new affordable housing project in Willoughby, Township councillors offered praise to Shepherd of the Valley for its vision.
The Lutheran church has partnered with non-profit Catalyst Community Development Society to build 82 affordable rental apartment units and five single family lots on the church property at 20097 72 Ave.
The rental units include 70 apartments for seniors and 12 apartments for families. The single family lots will be sold at market value.
BC Housing has given preliminary approval of $5 million in funding from the Investment in Housing Innovation program for the project.
Coun. Charlie Fox offered compliments on the layout of the property, and the inclusion of a dental office and small shops for seniors to walk to.
“I think this is a great step forward,” Fox said.
“I realize … this project may still have its detractors, but I think that this is what’s necessary in our community, and we see non-profits entering into arrangements with providers like this on property that is sitting stagnant at this point in time and not fully being utilized.”
“I think this is a fantastic project, we certainly need more rental units,” added Coun. Blair Whitmarsh. He asked staff about the definition of “affordable,” and how the Township can ensure the rentals remain affordable in the future.
Ramin Seifi, Township general manager of engineering and community development, said there’s no definition of affordable — that’s up to the operators — but he has “no doubt” they will use the same standard as elsewhere in the industry, which is no more than 30 per cent of household income spent on rent.
Seifi also said that through a housing agreement with the Township, the intent of the rental building will remain the same.
Coun. Petrina Arnason said the church has done a “great job” in engaging the community, as she witnessed significant changes come about as a result of the feedback from local residents.
“I just want to refer to the fact that when I was there last time, there had been significant improvements,” Arnason said. “Because BC Housing is involved, they have a conservation policy for energy, and so there’s going to be heightened energy conservation, which allows for those houses or apartments to be more energy efficient, and therefore more cost effective in the longer term. They’ve also expanded the green space that would be available there for the use of everybody there on the property.”