Terrace affordable housing project on hold

Land sale carried out under the city policy of only selling to developers who said they would include a component of lower cost housing

Building material and supplies collect on a large lot on the corner of Kenney and Park sold by the city to a developer with the hopes of constructing a number of housing units

It was an emphatic press release from the City of Terrace issued the morning of May 28, 2014 under the heading “City of Terrace sells lands to Coast to Coast Holdings Ltd.”

In it the city revealed it had sold a 2.4 acre lot it owned on the corner of Kenney and Park for $951,000 – double the minimum price it had set of $450,000 – to Calgary-based developer Coast to Coast Holdings.

“The sale of this undeveloped land will help to provide more housing for our community,” stated then-mayor Dave Pernarowski in the release.

But now, just over a year after the sale, the developer has delayed an awaited housing project indefinitely.

“The production is on hold until the market economy is ready,” said Coast to Coast official Kim Gregoire in a short email statement last week.

And with that announcement comes a halt, even if temporarily, to the City of Terrace’s cornerstone effort at being able to provide lower cost housing within its boundaries.

That’s because the sale was carried out under the city policy of only selling certain of its lands to developers who said they would include a component of lower cost housing as part of any larger development.

A 14-page bylaw which accompanied the land sale set out a requirement for 20 per cent of all apartments in the planned 105-unit complex to be rented at 20 per cent below normal market rates.

But no timeline for development was stipulated in the sales agreement.

Even last summer Coast to Coast announced it was shifting to a phased in approach, the first being two 12-unit apartment buildings.

Those buildings, which were never started, would have provided at least four lower rent apartments, based on the bylaw adopted by city council.

If actual construction of accommodation to be rented out at below market rates is on hold, there’s also been no action on another city effort at providing affordable housing.

That was through the creation last November of an affordable housing fund using $500,000 of the sale proceeds of the Kenney and Park land sale.

The idea was that the money could be used for everything from buying land for housing to waiving service fees on development, to partnering with developers.

So far, city councillor Stacey Tyers said no solid plan has been developed to use the money.

“Nobody has approached us. We don’t have the staffing capacity to go out and actively encourage or get people to the table,” said Tyers.

Along with councillor Lynne Christiansen, Tyers sits on the city-sponsored housing committee.

“If the proposal is good I can’t see any reason why we wouldn’t partner,” Tyers added of plans that might be submitted to the city.

While Coast to Coast may not be building the expected affordable housing showcase as envisioned by the city, it has been involved in a project just north of the Park and Kenney property.

Called Kenney Gardens because of its location on Kenney, the six-unit higher-end townhouse development carries price tags starting at $339,000.

Workers finishing at that location last week said the plan is to sell several of the townhouses before proceeding with one of the 12-unit apartment buildings on the Kenney and Park property.

Materials on the Kenney and Park property are meant for framing one of the planned buildings, they said.

Coast to Coast has also turned the Kenney and Park project over to a Quebec-based investment company with which it has a close business relationship.

ROI Investments generally supplies the financing for construction-ready developments undertaken by Coast to Coast, ROI president Phillipe Germain said in January of this year.

He had also expressed hope of starting at least a few of the planned 12-unit apartment buildings on Kenney and Park by this spring.

German said then the company was drawn to the area by the prospect of growth spurred by a liquefied natural gas industry.

ROI has also purchased land elsewhere in the city, including the parcel on Park that’s right to the east of the Park and Kenney corner lot. The company is promoting a 72-unit apartment complex there.

The two locations housed the provincial highways ministry works yard

And in Kitimat,  eight 12-unit buildings are being planned. Workers at Kenney Gardens said last week they are  poised to begin demolishing the current housing at the Kitimat site. But progress had been held up because of the three-month long Kitimat municipal worker strike which ended just last week.

Gregoire, who speaks for ROI as well as for Coast to Coast, said ROI will provide an update on this project in September.

Housing in Terrace by the numbers

Released earlier this year, a plan to improve the amount and quality of mostly rental housing for lower income people, seniors and those with specific needs contains 18 recommendations.

Meant for the City of Terrace, the plan was financed by the Northern Development Initiative Trust and corporations with the assistance of the province.

Here are those recommendations:

Rec 1: Call for more emergency shelter beds because the Ksan Society’s 16-bed emergency shelter reports that it is usually full 90-plus per cent of the year. This would require expanding or creating a new shelter.

Rec 2: Longer-term housing for women and children fleeing domestic violence. The Ksan Society has 14 beds intended for short term stays but they are often occupied for a longer period of time because no other housing is available.

Rec 3: Effort to partner with Terrace and District community services to build one or two homes to each house to six young adults. This will help create housing for youth between 19-24 who are too old to remain in foster care.

Rec 4: Promote programs that subsidize the retns of elderly people and others. And to change the criteria so that more people are eligible.

Rec 5: The provincial government should consider paying for a detailed study of the current housing situation of those with special needs.

Rec 6: The province and the city should consider working with Northwest Community College to acquire publicly-owned land for student residences.

Rec 7: Northwest Community College should  consider establishing a housing registry for learners looking for housing and Terrace residents looking to rent them accommodation.

Rec 8: Offer financial incentives for  homeowners who have secondary suites and who house people receiving rental assistance. Kitimat is currently doing.

Rec 9: The provincial BC Housing agency should continue to finance the salaries of workers to assist renters in finding accommodation if they feel they have been discriminated against and to provide guidance for renters who are in disputes with landlords.

Rec 10: Living out allowances paid by large companies bringing in workers for fixed-term projects should not be acceptable as this drives up overall rental costs. Block booking of hotels is preferred to block leasing of existing rental buildings.

Rec 11: Short stay hostel-type accommodation .  The only such accommodation is at the college but that’s only available in July and August. This might be offered by a non-profit group or by a for-profit enterprise.

Rec 12: Identify serviceable land for residential development.

Rec 13: Retrofit older buildings by promoting programs offering financial assistance for lower income seniors and lower income disabled people.

Rec 14: Also promote these above programs to property managers and landlords.

Rec 15: Promote the various financial assistance programs available for older adults.

Rec 16: The province and its various agencies and the city should consider paying for a study of seniors housing needs.

Rec 17: Real estate sales activity and rental rates should be monitored by the city through the B.C. Northern Real Estate Board and the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.

Rec 18: Update the housing action plan in 2017.