The new affordable housing operated by the Kootenay Region Association for Community Living will celebrate its official opening on Jan. 26, 2020. (Brian Lawrence)

Housing by Kootenay Region Association for Community Living celebrating official opening

Ribbon cutting for nine affordable units at Creston’s Spectrum Farms property on Jan. 26

Creston’s latest affordable housing project will celebrate its official opening at 2 p.m. Jan. 26, when a ribbon is cut for nine units at Spectrum Farms.

Funded by BC Housing and the Columbia Basin Trust (CBT), the project broke ground in May 2018, with a goal of razing the former Cedar and Linden Place building and constructing a new facility on its footprint.

The clean and bright new suites — six one-bedroom and three two-bedroom, with three wheelchair accessible — are nothing like the tenants, who have disabilities of various kinds, have enjoyed before, and who may have previously resided in unsafe or unhealthy living conditions.

“Most people were highly emotional to think they could ever live in a place like that,” said Serena Naeve, executive director for the Kootenay Region Association for Community Living (KRACL), which operates Spectrums Farms at 849 Erickson Rd.

Several of the suites open onto a large deck that faces southwest, and which adjoins a large common area.

“That’s a nice space where all the tenants can gather if they want to,” said KRACL president Alex Nilsson.

The common room will also be the location of Sunday’s ribbon cutting with Nelson-Creston MLA Michelle Mungall, Regional District of Central Kootenay Area C director Adam Casemore and CBT senior manager (benefits delivery) Mark Brunton. The ceremony will be followed by a chance to view the suites.

The housing project was the vision of former president Eric Kutzner, who worked closely with the Creston Valley Community Housing Society, an organization that had already completed a similar project.

“Without the support and collaboration with the housing society, this would not have happened,” said Naeve.

The building, constructed by Mountain Spring Holdings, cost over $2.5 million, with $2.3 million from BC Housing and $250,000 from CBT. The Creston Valley Gleaners Society also contributed, helping out with early development costs.

KRACL is a regional organization, so it advertised to 50,000 homes in the east and west Kootenays, and now has tenants who came from from five communities: Cranbrook, Fruitvale, Trail, Crawford Bay and Creston.

The affordable housing is located on land purchased in 1962 by the Kootenay Society for Handicapped Children, which was started by Trail’s Dr. William Endicott in 1951, eventually becoming KRACL in 2005.

That land is also home to Spectrum Farms, which offers employment to people with disabilities, and the Therapeutic Riding Program, operated by the Creston and District Society for Community Living, and offering the new residents a larger community than simply those in the building.

“Our hope is to create an inclusive community here,” said Naeve. “I’m not sure if they felt in other places that it was their home. … We believe that it will give them a chance to thrive more in every aspect of their life.”

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