By Andru McCracken


Breaking ground at the new 13 unit apartment on Gordon Road are councillor Donnie MacLean, builder Doug Miller, councillor Hollie Blanchette, VARS President Riette Kenkel, VARS Treasurer Korie Marshall, Mayor Owen Torgerson, councillor Pete Pearson, VARS Director Kitty Tinsley and MLA Shirley Bond. /ANDRU MCCRACKEN

The Valemount Affordable Rentals Society has broken ground on a new $4.27 million 13-unit housing project and integrated concrete forms are already being put into place on site. The project, located at 1295 Gordon Rd., will be a two storey apartment building with one, two and three-bedroom units.

The project was approved by BC Housing in 2018, and Treasurer Korie Marshall said that it took some time to get it moving.

“Everything takes longer than you think,” said Marshall. She hopes that the units will become available in summer 2021.

Marshall said that the project continues to be needed.

“There is virtually no vacancy for rental units,” she said. “I don’t think our 13 units will satisfy the need for rentals.”

3D rendering of the new rental units. / RMG File Photo 2020

Nine of the new units will be geared to income, meaning residents will pay 30% of their income to live there.

Marshall said four units will likely go to area seniors and one of the apartments will be wheelchair accessible.

Keeping it affordable
Marshall said she is hearing tales of homes renting for $3000 per month thanks to increasing demand for accommodation from pipeliners.

“I’m not saying it’s not worth it or pipeliners don’t have the means, and I don’t begrudge someone trying to get the mortgage paid off, but if you have a $14 an hour job, you can’t afford $3000 a month,” she said.

“It’s hard to run the Subway, Tim Hortons and the A&W with minimum wage staff if you don’t have anywhere for them to live.”

There is currently no waitlist for the new project.

“If people are interested, they can let me know, and I can help them get their application in when we are ready,” she said.

The project is a partnership between the Province, the Columbia Basin Trust, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation and the Valemount Affordable Rentals Society.

“After years of inaction by the previous government, people across B.C. have had a hard time finding safe, affordable housing,” said Selina Robinson, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. “These new homes will help keep Valemount healthy and vibrant, and make sure people can stay in their community, close to friends, family and the services they count on.”

The society is taking on a 30-year mortgage to finance the project, and they have a 60-year operating agreement with BC Housing.\

Local wins the bid
Doug Miller of Wild Montane Construction won the bid to build the building.

“We were selected because we put in a somewhat superior bid, we were competitive and had the design elements and the commitment I made to VARS was we would use all the qualified local contractors that we could,” he said.

Second floor plan of a 8 x 2 bedroom unit

Miller said he wants to keep as many of the construction dollars in town as possible.

The building is called a Step 4 project and it’s one step below a passive house.

“It is very energy efficient and uses Integrated Concrete Form construction to mitigate train noise as much as possible,” he said.

“It will be one of the more efficient projects I’ve built, because the code is stepping up the game, we have to meet that demand and I like to stay ahead of the curve.”

VARS existing rentals
Currently the Valemount Affordable Rentals Society has nine rentals – eight bachelor and 1-bedroom suites and one home.

“None of those units require income testing,” Marshall said “On our new project, we are going to be breaking even.”

“The house and 8 units are really the only way we can build up the organization and work towards more equity.

We don’t think our units are that expensive,” she said.

For example units at Juniper Square go for as low as $650 and include heat, electricity and wifi and are furnished. The 2-bedroom house they own rents for $1075 per month.

“None of those units require income testing,” said Marshall.

She said the smaller units are filling a niche role in the community.

“If somebody doesn’t want to get tied into a year lease, or if it is a three month job in Valemount, it’s an option that’s not widely available in Valemount.”

At the opening, president of the society Riette Kenkel said she was excited to see the project move forward.

“We haven’t let our size or our newness shtu us down. We’ve worked hard in the past few years to make our dreams become realities and we’ve had incredible support from so many, including community members, volunteers, our consultants, our contractors, and of course BC Housing, CMHC, Columbia Basin Trust, the

Regional District of Fraser Fort George and the Village of Valemount. Thank you.”

Member of the Legislative Assembly Shirley Bond was there to help turn the soil, for the symbolic first shovel. It was MLA Bond’s first trip to the valley since her husband Bill passed away in May.

“For me, it’s the story of how a small group of hardworking, dedicated people can make something amazing happen. […] This is incredible when you stop and think about the need for affordable housing in communities large and small. This is a fantastic example of what can happen when people really work together,” she said.

The project’s total capital budget is approximately $4.27 million.

The Province provided $1.34 million to the project through the Building BC: Community Housing Fund.

The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation provided $300,000 through the Federal Bilateral Canada Community Housing Initiative Grant.

Columbia Basin Trust provided $169,400 to the project.

The Village of Valemount waived $25,493 in development costs.

VARS provided the land for the project.

Rents are projected to range from $375 to $1,250 per month: two units are for people with very low incomes (such as residents on income assistance): $375 to $660 per month; seven rent-geared-to-income units are for people with low to moderate incomes ($33,000 to $48,500): approximately $532 to $761 per month; and four affordable market units are for people with moderate incomes ($74,150 to $113,040): approximately $840 to $1,250 per month.

More photos and floor plans below: