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Construction projects to help improve housing capacity

A number of developments will help alleviate housing pressure, says councillor
NEED INDEED: Powell River contractor Al Austin’s newest development behind Crossroads Village Shopping Centre has highlighted the need for more affordable seniors housing. Chris Bolster photo

Powell River’s affordable housing crunch will improve in the coming months with a number of new projects, according to City of Powell River councillor Maggie Hathaway.

Hathaway, who holds council’s housing portfolio, said while seniors and lower-income families continue to struggle to find affordable rental accommodation in the city, new housing construction projects are in the works to meet some of the need.

"When you look at everything that's in the works, it looks like it is going to take care of itself,” said Hathaway.

The city is estimating it will top $15 million of new construction in 2017 with more larger projects expected for 2018.

Hathaway said between larger projects and smaller, and multifamily buildings being planned elsewhere in the city, the new capacity will help improve the variety of housing and help some of Powell River’s seniors downsize into more appropriately sized accommodations. Two of the larger projects are Coastal Winds, the 75-unit assisted-living project to be located next to Powell River General Hospital, and Sunset Homes Society’s planned 40-unit townhouse project at the former location of Max Cameron Secondary School.

City director of planning Thomas Knight said the city has been seeing local and outside developers recognizing a market for downsizing seniors and for more apartment buildings.

“It's one of the areas planning staff is trying to target,” said Knight.

The city has been working with developers to shift their projects from larger single family homes to multifamily developments, he added.

Hathaway said what Powell River really needs is affordable apartment accommodations for lower-income families.

"It's been so long since we had a family apartment building built in this town that I can't remember," said Hathaway.

Powell River contractor Al Austin is one builder who has found some success in building smaller 600- to 800-square-foot, single-level units for seniors. He said his recently completed seniors project behind Crossroads Village Shopping Centre was rented out before the building’s foundation was laid.

“There is just a huge demand for them," said Austin. "We found a bigger demand than even we anticipated."

Austin said he is planning another 24 units and 17 of them are already spoken for.

"We've tried to keep it affordable and we'll do the same with the next one,” he said. “That's what people need. There are a lot of seniors who don't have disposable income."

Meanwhile, city council recently adopted its carriage-house bylaw amendments and Knight said his office has received a stream of interest from homeowners looking to construct a secondary garden suite on their property for aging family members.

Knight said with all of the construction going on, contractors have been quoting prices for carriage homes at about $300 per square foot for construction, approximately double the regular rate.