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Life Cycle Housing seeks assistance from City of Powell River for affordable housing project

Society makes requests for initiative in Cranberry neighbourhood
PROJECT UPDATE: A Life Cycle Housing representative appeared before the city’s committee of the whole to outline accessibility plans for the facility and to ask for some financial assistance.

Life Cycle Housing Society is requesting adjustments to the design of the Cranberry Place affordable housing project and also some funds from a City of Powell River reserve to help offset costs.

At the May 4 committee of the whole meeting, Life Cycle president Frances Ladret appeared via video link to put forward the requests. She said her appearance was a follow-up to the April 13 committee of the whole meeting where the Life Cycle development permit application was considered. She said at that time, councillors asked for a fully accessible pathway from the site down to Cranberry Street. The committee also suggested extending sidewalks up through Dieppe Crescent and Ortona Avenue.

“The project team has looked at both of those options and we’ve concluded that sidewalks on Dieppe and Ortona won’t provide safe access for wheelchairs due to the grade,” said Ladret. “We are proposing not to construct those sidewalks. I note there are no sidewalks on Dieppe or Normandy Court, which is pretty consistent with development in the neighbourhood. 

“We are proposing a 60- to 70-foot concrete path, five feet wide, with a maximum five per cent grade from the middle of our site down to the sidewalk along Cranberry that Life Cycle will be constructing as part of the development. Also, there would be a concrete staircase beside the ramp.”

She said the proposal would provide safe access for people in wheelchairs and an easy grade for people with mobility limitations.

She said the second request was financial. She said she wanted to acknowledge that the city’s forgiving of development cost charges for affordable or social housing projects has been greatly appreciated. She said it has resulted in significant savings for the project. She said, however, the project is facing budgetary constraints and the pathway will add to the costs.

“That, combined with the off-site civic works that are required represents a substantial sum,” said Ladret. “We have looked into finding money for the accessible path and unfortunately, the federal program that might have funded it has closed. We’ll continue to pursue options but it’s not looking promising.”

She said Life Cycle was looking for a contribution from the city’s affordable housing fund.

“It’s our view that the Cranberry sidewalk will improve public safety in the neighbourhood and that the accessible path sits well with the city’s interest in ensuring accessibility throughout the community,” said Ladret. “It’s our view that both of these aspects would be good candidates for the funds you have available. We would like you to consider making a contribution.”

Mayor comments on costs

Mayor Dave Formosa said the ramp is about a $50,000 cost. Ladret said that is what she has been told.

Formosa said the society needed to come up with another $75,000 for the sidewalks on Cranberry Street and another $100,000 for paving.

“You’re looking at about $225,000 in additional costs that are normal costs for a developer but these are bringing you hardship,” said Formosa. He asked if he had the numbers and other information right.

Ladret said the society was not asking for full funding from the reserve funding but it is making the point that there were a lot of costs coming up on the project, and unlike a private developer, those costs cannot be recovered by increasing selling prices or rent. She said BC Housing sets the rents the society is able to charge under the community housing fund program.

“Any new costs that come up, we are finding it critical,” said Ladret.

Formosa said the fund Ladret was referring to had about $50,000 in it. He asked if the society was looking at trying to access all of that money, or a portion of it.

Ladret said the society was looking at any portion the city was willing to provide.

Formosa said he was supportive of providing help.

Councillor supportive of ask

Committee chair councillor George Doubt said in previous drawings, there was not acceptable wheelchair access to the walkable neighbourhood of Cranberry. He said when he looks at upgraded drawings showing Ladret’s proposal of a walkway, it looks like a better solution to him than putting sidewalks up Dieppe and Ortona. He said he would also support looking if there are any funds the city could use to make the project work.

“It’s a desirable project for the community but I think we have to be willing to stand up and put our money where our mouth is if we say we need to have an accessible community,” said Doubt. “I support doing what you are asking for.”

Formosa asked how the city could arrive at a decision about the access and potential funding.

Corporate officer Chris Jackson said he recommended the matter be referred to staff. The matter could then come back to council to see if there is an opportunity to accommodate the requests, according to Jackson.

Councillors gave unanimous consent to send the matter to staff for review.