Affordable housing project planned for Southside

Non-profits are asking for the city to pitch in to build a $13.5 million low income building in Terrace, B.C.

Conceptual drawing of a planned affordable housing complex on Haugland Ave.

Conceptual drawing of a planned affordable housing complex on Haugland Ave.

THE CITY of Terrace and two non-profit agencies are working on a proposal which could see a $13.5 million social housing complex built on the Southside.

Details of the plan that calls on the city to lease property it owns on the 4600 Block of Haugland for $1 a year to the Ksan House Society for a three-storey complex of 39 rental units were outlined at a council meeting last week.

Construction would hinge on the provincial B.C. Housing agency providing at least $10 million for the project, explained Kevin Albers, the chief executive officer of the M’akola Group, a Victoria-based society which provides housing for aboriginal people across the province and which has been hired by Ksan to do a feasibility study and line up financing.

M’akola is a major landlord in Terrace and Prince Rupert, assuming control of 150 housing units when it absorbed the Muks-Kum-Ol Housing Society in 2012.

The units would be rented out to low income earners at a subsidized rate of approximately 30 per cent below the market rates, according to the presentation made by Albers.

The Ksan House Society would own the complex which would be built on the lots of 4616-4622 Haugland, close to its Hall St. short term housing and emergency shelter building.

Albers also made an appeal to the city for as much financial and other assistance as possible, a list that included a property tax exemption and having city development service director David Block act as a “champion” in moving the proposal forward.

A break on the city’s various building, rezoning and development fees could be sought in the future, said another M’akola official, Kaela Schramm, afterwards.

Albers and Schramm said they want the proposal ready soon for an official submission to B.C. Housing in anticipation of it releasing the first portion of a provincial commitment to spend $355 million over five years on affordable housing.

And that amount could conceivably rise with the federal government also indicating it will provide its own to the province to help the financing of affordable housing projects.

Figures provided in the M’akola presentation indicate there’s an affordable waiting list here of 246 people.

“I am very excited about this. I think it’s great. There is a huge need,” said mayor Carol Leclerc of the proposal.

“We have punted the request over to our staff. The staff is going to have a look at it, because it could set precedents,” she added.

Leclerc said the city’s own affordable housing account, which stands at $500,000, might be put to use.

“We do have a housing fund, $500,000 in that housing fund, and if we are able to sometime perhaps think about city costs instead of charging them to the developer then they could come out of the housing fund,” she said.

“Donating land, we have done that in the past,” she continued. “Ksan has already got a couple 60 year leases with the city. So, land is not necessarily an issue, but the property tax exemption, that would be new.”

Councillor Michael Prevost, though “generally elated” said he hopes that some of the units will have wheelchair accessibility and be equipped with facilities for people who have mobility issues.

Councillor Sean Bujtas wondered about how the cost of utilities might affect the affordable rate and was told that the large complex layout would mean low costs for heating, though this amount would be on top of the rental rates.

The preliminary designs show a three-storey complex with 12 one-room apartments, 21 two-bedroom apartments and six three-bedroom apartments.

Based on current rental prices, rentals would amount to $700, $800 and $1,000 for a one-bedroom,  two-bedroom and three-bedroom unit respectively.

The target maximum income that a potential tenant would have to earn would be $25,500 or under for a one-bedroom, $27,000 or under for a two-bedroom and $33,000 or under for a three-bedroom unit.

So far, the cost per square foot for the units is estimated at $339.63 with a rental unit total working out to $348,336. A BC Housing call for proposals could come as early as next month.

In responding to a question from Leclerc about whether more units could be built, architect Dan Condon, who is doing the designs, said that could happen by adding another floor or extending the complex to an adjacent lot owned by Ksan.

This is not the first time Ksan has proposed a housing project for the Haugland property.

An earlier plan of several years ago for 20 units of affordable housing was not taken up by the city.

The Ksan Society already manages 84 units made up of houses, apartments, townhouses and emergency and transition shelter.