People who are homeless or at risk of homelessness will soon have a low-cost option in Queen Charlotte.
The B.C. government is funding a 19-unit apartment building on 2nd Avenue that will offer subsidized rents and round-the-clock support staff.
BC Housing will own the two-storey building, but it will be managed by the local Queen Charlotte Housing Society.
“I’m thrilled, my council is thrilled,” said Queen Charlotte Mayor Greg Martin.
As a recent study found, people living on low incomes in Queen Charlotte are going through a two-way squeeze — there is a housing shortage at the same time that federal subsidies are ending for 11 existing homes.
Concerned about a rise in homelessness, the village council started lobbying the province for a new social housing project more than two years ago.
Martin said the requests got little traction until the B.C. NDP was elected last year. During the campaign, the party promised to open 11,400 new social housing units a year.
“This government — they made a promise and my God, they’re keeping it,” Martin said.
“This is real.”
BC Housing hopes to have the new apartment building open by winter.
With a modular, pre-fabricated design by ATCO, it will have a peaked metal roof to suit the neighbourhood and Haida Gwaii’s sometimes sideways rain.
The ground floor will have six one-bedroom apartments, plus a shared kitchen, a lounge, and a laundry room. There will also be a lobby, staff office, and a small medical room.
Upstairs the building will have 13 more one-bedroom apartments. Every apartment in the building will have a floor space of 343 square feet, with a kitchenette and a washroom.
Outside will be a garage and five parking spaces along Second Avenue.
Finding land for the project was a sticky issue, Martin said, because the village doesn’t own any lots in the downtown core.
Thankfully, Martin said there was provincially-owned land available — one site up Forestry Hill that was not so central, and the chosen site on Second Avenue just west of City Centre and the original hospital building.
An older home on the property known as Margaret House will be demolished to make way for the new apartments. Construction is expected to start this summer.
While the 19 apartments will be a big help, Martin said the Queen Charlotte Housing Society does have a second project in mind. The society is looking to secure enough funding that it can renovate some former office space into a set of four two-bedroom apartments that could house small families.
Village of Queen Charlotte councillors will discuss the new social housing project at the regular council meeting on Tuesday, May 22 at 7:30 p.m. Council will arrange to have a question-and-answer session about the project early in the meeting.