About 40 local residents, committee members and dignitaries gathered at an empty 25th Avenue South lot on Tuesday morning to celebrate the impending construction of a six-unit affordable rental housing development.
“This day seems like it’s been a long time coming,” said Heather More, who chairs the Creston Valley Community Housing Society (CVCHS). “We began with a $25,000 donation from the Creston Valley Gleaners, and when that money was spent on studies and plans, none of us wanted to be the one to go back to the Gleaners and tell them we had failed.”
The small society with about 10 active members persisted, working closely with BC Housing, the Town of Creston, Columbia Basin Trust and the federal and provincial governments to raise funds.
The complex at 215 25th Ave. S. will contain four three-bedroom and two two-bedroom units, conveniently located near transit, grocery stores, commercial services, Prince Charles Secondary School and green spaces. A low profile design will allow it to blend in with neighbouring residences. Construction is scheduled to be complete by late 2015. (A previous site near Millennium Park was previously chosen for the project, but the 25th Avenue location was deemed more suitable.)
“Community events are always exciting, but even more so when it’s a groundbreaking,” Kootenay-Columbia MP David Wilks said at the ceremony. “Projects like this bring hope and real solutions to families living on low incomes. There is no place like home and in the near future six families will be able to acknowledge this firsthand. Our government is proud of our investment that will help families achieve affordable housing here in Creston.”
“This groundbreaking today represents an important step forward in addressing the lack of family-focused affordable housing in the Town of Creston,” More said. “The families that live here in the future will have a better chance at engaging their community, and lead more fulfilling lives. I’m honoured to be one of the many people who’ve worked so hard to bring the vision of the Creston Valley Community Housing Society to life.”
The governments of B.C. and Canada provided a combined $400,000 through the Affordable Rental Housing Initiative under the Canada-B.C. Agreement for Investment in Affordable Housing 2011-2014, which was recently extended until 2019. Columbia Basin Trust contributed $400,000. The government of B.C. also arranged nearly $400,000 in long-term financing for the project. CVCHS is providing $26,000 in equity and working to secure an additional $100,000 in grants or project savings. It will also own and operate the building.
In addition to Wilks, also participating in the formal ceremony were Heather Smith, constituency assistant for MLA Bill Bennett, who was unable to attend; Creston Mayor Ron Toyota; Columbia Basin trust planning and development manager Aimee Ambrosone; Alex Nilsson, a founding CVCHS member; Gleaners president Forch (Joe) Sandre; and Zea Freisen, a single mother of two who moved to Creston to establish her acupuncture business. Freisen spoke about her own experience in finding suitable, affordable rental housing, and congratulated the CVCHS on its efforts to create affordable rental space in Creston.
Nelson-Creston MLA Michelle Mungall was not invited, but sent her congratulations to the CVCHS via a letter to the editor.