By Andru McCracken

Motel-turned-student housing, another VARS project. /RMG File Photo

Things are moving quickly for the Valemount Affordable Rentals Society’s new housing project in Juniper Square near the Golden Year’s Lodge. Their proposal to build a 13-unit multi-story residential complex was approved for funding by BC Housing last week.

According to society president Riette Kenkel, they will receive $1.3 million to build the units at that location.

“We received a letter from BC Housing to let us know we were successful and an announcement went out on Tuesday,” said Kenkel. “We will be contacted by BC Housing in the next few weeks to discuss next steps.”

Kenkel said the $1.3 million dollar grant is just part of the roughly $4M projected cost; the society will be seeking additional funding and the difference will be financed with a mortgage. The mortgage would be paid off using rental income from the property.

“We’re excited and a bit nervous at the same time.”

Open house input

Kenkel said the society will take part in an open house planned by the Village’s Affordable Housing Committee sometime in January.

“It’s another opportunity to get input,” she said. “What does the community see going into that space?”

Kenkel said the project will likely go out for tender.

She said that the society has already received feedback and ideas from members, and may consider using building alternatives like Passive House standards. “We are open to suggestions, but the final decision on the building will be made in partnership with our main funder, BC Housing.”

Passive House is a science-based energy standard in construction, and Passive House buildings consume up to 90 percent less heating and cooling energy than conventional buildings.

Affordable Housing Committee

Rashmi Narayan, the chair of the Village of Valemount’s Affordable Housing Committee, said she welcomed the society’s presence at the open house.

“The idea was to have all housing stakeholders be there, including the Seniors Housing Society, the Valemount Affordable Rentals Society, and hopefully Robson Valley Community Services and to seek information from the public about what they would like to see in an affordable housing project,” said Narayan.

Narayan said there is a second housing project in the works to be developed on land set aside in principle by the village.

“We asked for land from the village in principle; through the CBT grants we have identified three sites to see which is best suited, but to know what is best suited, we need to know what is needed,” she said. “If 40 units are needed, we’ll need a big parcel.”

Narayan said that there is also a survey in the works to determine the demand for housing.

“We want to make sure [a future housing project] is in a location people want, whether the size of units or the type of dwellings meet people’s needs,” she said.