Plans for a 176-unit affordable rental building in downtown Kelowna are being praised for meeting a significant community need.
During a Tuesday meeting where a height variance allowing for a 20-storey tower at 1451 Bertram St. was approved, Kelowna city councillors and planners alike said they saw it to be more than just a place for residents to hang their hats.
“The B.C. Housing project is expected to offer community within a great community,” Simon Ho, one of the designers of the tower said.
“BC housing envisions this housing to be all-inclusive.”
Ho said it’s been designed to accommodate middle-earning people with disabilities, single mothers, seniors and families.
Details as small as closet spaces and as grand as a daycare and shared rooftop garden space have been woven into the plan aimed at bringing more affordable and livable spaces into the downtown.
“This is an inclusive building and there has been a lot of effort on the development team to make sure that happens,” Ho said.
BC Housing says half the units will be offered at under-market rental costs and the remaining half will be middle-income units. The project is intended to benefit local medium and low-income earners, couples, individuals and families who are facing challenges meeting their housing and child care needs.
Once the building has been completed sometime between 2024 and 2025, 162 of the 176 units will be apartment-style, while 14 will be direct street and podium-oriented townhouse units.
There are 43 that will be three-bedroom units and 56 will be two-bedroom. There will be outdoor play areas on the eighth floor, as well as a rooftop garden.
Luke Stack is the executive director of the Society of Hope, a large non-profit housing provider, with a birds-eye view of what is happening within the city’s housing market. He said the building will help meet the growing demand in the community.
“We badly needed we need all kinds of rentals,” he said.
In recent years Kelowna has built up its stock of rental housing, but Stack said much of what’s coming on the market is pricey.
“There’s a huge demand for people that are looking for a much more affordable rent than the market rent that you see today,” Stack said.
The society monitors rents for a typical two-bedroom unit and just six years ago the average cost in Kelowna was$1,140 a month. Today, Stack said, it’s closer to $1,694 – 50 per cent increase since 2015.
“So the actual month-to-month cost of rental has gone up so much faster than people‘s incomes and therefore is creating a real squeeze and making more people start looking for a subsidized or reduced rent,” he said.
Stack said a lot of people who go to the Society of Hope are well employed, they just don’t make enough income to pay for a $1,700 a month two-bedroom apartment.
Coun. Charlie Hodge said that the project checks off a lot of boxes for him and he was excited to hear about it.
“This is a significant investment in housing in our community,” Mayor Colin Basran also said. “This is a phenomenal project that will benefit a lot of families in our community.”
Sheryl Peters from BC Housing said they haven’t determined who the development partners or the daycare operator will be yet.
BC Housing said construction will begin in the next 12 to 24 months. It will be the first affordable housing tower in Kelowna from BC Housing.
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