Affordable housing plan dropped

Carol Sabo says negotiations with the City of Terrace didn't turn out the way she would have liked

One of the more advanced and promising affordable housing proposals for Terrace has been canned by its planner.

Carol Sabo, in a release today said she is disappointed to close the file on the development that would have seen 20 new low cost housing units installed on a vacant lot at the corner of Haugland and Hall near the Ksan emergency homeless shelter.

The group that would have overseen the development, Ksan Housing Society, for which Sabo is executive director, needed to negotiate a deal with the city for subsided lease and tax exemptions.

Sabo said that the city was unable to accommodate her request and could only offer in-kind donations in the form of construction services.

Sabo’s plan for the units had been that people who were struggling financially and earning $64,000 or less could apply to rent them.

Rent for 12 of the units would have been priced in relation to income assistance levels while the other eight would have been rented at affordable market rates.

But the city was firm about not offering even in-kind help for merely affordable housing—that the project had to be for people in the low-income bracket only.

“Stressed was the fact that in-kind would only be available if the project was strictly for low-income, they were not able to provide anything toward affordable housing,” said Sabo.

Sabo retooled her proposal, seeking to meet this requirement, but it didn’t work.

“A guarantee of the housing being available to only those making less that $25,000 per year resulted in the same response,” said Sabo of her unsuccessful negotiation. “The property would not be available to us for a nominal lease. It was only available on purchase.”

She also said that her plan to construct the units at $90,000 each had included property tax considerations. However, without the land being offered by the city, Sabo said she foresaw the cost per unit rise by $10,000 each.

While $300 million in federal and provincial money was announced earlier this year to go towards affordable housing over the next five years, BC Housing said that money would only pass to municipalities through partnerships.

“Given the city is not willing to provide the property, we feel it would be a waste of time to apply to BC Housing at this time,” said Sabo.

She added that Ksan will be wiling to help maintain low-income housing add-ons for developments planned for Terrace.

Mayor Dave Pernarowski said there are a number of developers in negotiations with Terrace city staff about buying land for housing plans that will include a mix of affordable and higher end lodging.

“There are a number of developers approaching us, as we speak, who are hoping to work with the city for that type of housing development, so I know we will continue to pursue other opportunities with developers for projects like that,” the mayor said of Sabo’s proposal.

Pernarowski had recently put Sabo’s development plan on a list of potential sponsorship recipients submitted to a large company seeking to make community contributions.

“I just recently gave out her name and that project concept to a large corporation that was looking for opportunities to sponsor and contribute to the community,” said Pernarowski.

“We have lots of good opportunity now to see affordable housing being developed through this building season and certainly that piece of property remains a good location,” he added.

Sabo said that the Haugland property is being sold by the city for in the range of $215,000.