If it’s difficult to find, build it yourself — that’s the perspective Kamloops Immigrant Services (KIS) is taking on a new project years in the making.
KIS has partnered with Habitat for Humanity Kamloops in an effort to add another floor of office space atop the organization’s 448 Tranquille Rd. location and a five-storey, 30-unit apartment complex for immigrants, refugees and permanent residents on the property behind the building.
France Lamontagne, executive director of Kamloops Immigrant Services (KIS) told KTW offering subsidized housing for immigrants is something they have wanted to do for decades.
“In 2019, with all the difficulties we all have to find a good place to stay in Kamloops, it’s the right timing for the agency to partner with Habitat for Humanity and make this a possibility,” Lamontagne said.
She said it’s important for newcomers to a city to find housing, one of the obstacles KIS faces when helping those new to Canada.
The apartment building is expected to include homes with one, two and three bedrooms.
“We have large families arriving in Kamloops, not just refugee families. We also have immigrant families that have already a few children and some on the go, and then some families also arrive with the grandparents,” Lamontagne said.
She said often a single family home isn’t an option for these families due to price.
Lamontagne said KIS will manage the apartment building on its own and offer below-market value rent to tenants, and expects there will be plenty of demand.
The building won’t be transitional housing as those who fill its apartments will be able to stay permanently.
Lamontagne said KIS already has preliminary drawings to build another storey on the KIS building, and envisions adding a green space and playground for families to enjoy on the new roof as a quality-of-life enhancement for residents.
“We want something people feel proud of,” she said, adding that she’s seen immigrant housing in other cities that resemble prisons.
Lamontagne said she also wants a building that makes the North Shore community proud.
“We are part of a developing neighbourhood and we want to be part of that good feeling about the North Shore in Kamloops,” she said.
Habitat for Humanity Kamloops executive director Bill Miller said they will be the catalyst to bring KIS’s vision to reality.
It’s expected to be a multi-million dollar construction project, but neither Miller nor Lamontagne could say exactly how much the project will cost.
“Way to early in the game for that,” said Miller, adding that won’t be known until the final design concept is in place.
Miller said they would typically look at two or three concepts, and noted the city will need to tell them how much of the property they can build on.
The project is expected to be completed about two years from now.
Miller said he estimates it will take six months to complete the project design process to the point where they will have sufficient drawings for grant funding applications and a development permit.
He said Habitat Kamloops and KIS may each contribute funding to the project, but they will also be looking for various government funding sources and private donations.
“We will layer up funding from a variety of sources,” he said.
Habitat for Humanity is known for building single family homes, but Miller said that model doesn’t work anymore and for cost efficiencies, socio-economic benefits and the ability to put more people in attainable housing, the non-profit wants to build more multi-unit housing projects like this one.
Habitat Kamloops and KIS came together on the project during a BC Housing conference a few months ago.
“We happened to be at the same table, we were sharing what we do and what they do and one thing led to another,” Miller said.
Lamontagne said KIS was hesitant to undertake a project like this over the years because they lacked the expertise Habitat Kamloops will now bring to the project.