The development permit for a downtown social-housing project announced one year ago will go to city council on Tuesday.
The project, which is the result of a partnership between BC Housing, the City of Kamloops and the John Howard Society, will be located on a 1,678-square-metre parcel owned by the city at 511 St. Paul St. (St. Paul Street and Fifth Avenue) and include 60 social-housing units and ground-level office space.
“This is definitely a good next step,” city social and community development supervisor Natalie Serl said. “Construction will be coming. They just have to go through all of their permitting process on that one.”
The project was announced one year ago after the city purchased from the Kelson Group six parcels of land stretching east on St. Paul Street from the southeast corner of Fifth Avenue (503, 511, 519, 527, 533 and 537 St. Paul St.) for $2.35 million.
The building — consisting of mostly one-bedroom apartments, in addition to studio and two-bedroom units — will be geared to low- to middle-income families, including seniors, singles couples, single parents and people with intellectual disabilities. Three of the one-bedroom suites will be accessible to the disabled and 11 will have access to an adjoining unit to provide independent living and accommodate a caregiver.
The housing will be operated by the John Howard Society and is funded by BC Housing. BC Housing said an update on social housing projects in Kamloops will be provided later this week, when modular housing on Tranquille Road in North Kamloops— Spero House — is expected to open.
That housing, which consists of 52 units and which will be operated by ASK Wellness, was initially expected to open last fall.
“Really soon,” Serl said. “I’m really excited to see that one. It will be a tremendous addition to our housing stock when that opens.”
Meanwhile, Serl said there is no word on when construction might begin on the second modular housing project announced by BC Housing last year, as part of a commitment from the province to build more than 2,000 units.
The West Victoria Street project is a partnership with the Canadian Mental Health Association. An additional 52 units are slated for 259 West Victoria St. next to the Emerald Shelter. While the Tranquille Road project is nearly complete, shovels have yet to hit the dirt on West Victoria Street. Unlike the Tranquille Road property, which is flat, Serl called the West Victoria address a “very complicated site.” Delays to that project have been due to geotechnical issues. Serl expects construction to begin soon.
“We’ve had geotechnical issues there, so Horizon North has had to submit new drawings,” she said. “They’ve had to modify the design of the building a little bit to make it fit, for cost-effectiveness, with the geo-technical constraints that they have. There’s been contractual obligation and agreements between CMHA and BC Housing and Horizon North, as well. There’s just been a lot of things like that in a site that is not straightforward. It’s got so many complexities to it.”
Additionally, Serl said the city is awaiting construction to begin on the Lii Michif Otipemisiwak project in Brocklehurst, while construction of the Spirit Square seniors housing in North Kamloops continues. The Centre for Seniors Information project also recently got underway, with demolition of the old movie theatre downtown at the corner of Fifth Avenue and Victoria Street.
Asked if this housing will suffice once it is all built, Serl said: “We’re going to have to re-evaluate because with all the movement from people into shelters from our temporary housing and into Spero House and all that, we’re going to have to look at our numbers again to see what the impact has been and how that’s looking. For 2020, I imagine we’ll be doing another point in time [homeless] count, as well.”