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Texada Island Nonprofit Seniors Housing Society seeks land for affordable housing

Organization on the lookout for location to situate development
BUILDING ACCOMODATIONS: A nonprofit society has formed to establish affordable seniors rental housing near Gillies Bay on Texada Island, and a possible lease property has been found, but access to potable water is an issue.

Efforts are underway to provide affordable rental housing for seniors on Texada Island.

Cathy Brown, president of Texada Island Nonprofit Seniors Housing Society, speaking at the March 10 qathet Regional District (qRD) committee of the whole meeting, said there is nowhere for the island’s elders to go when they are no longer able to live in their own homes.

“They are forced off-island and away from their support networks,” said Brown. “I know of one senior on Texada who is homeless and couch surfing because there is nowhere where she can afford to live.”

She said the society’s vision is to build affordable rental housing on the island, with integrated services, such as optional meals, social inclusion activities, transportation to medical care, and other services that are already available in the community.”

The society has been awarded charity status through Canada Revenue Agency and the hope is this will allow it to apply for grants from BC Housing and Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.

First Credit Union has sponsored the society for completing its first strategic plan. A project consulting firm has been engaged that specializes in low-income, prefabricated, green housing design, said Brown.

“We’ve hired a part-time fundraiser and we’ve been making important relationships in the community to further our cause,” she added. “The challenge is we’ve been looking for property for a little over two years and the prices are crazy. To purchase land will take a couple years of fundraising. There are no big grants for land purchase. Or, we can borrow money and go into significant debt before we build.”

Brown said the society has gone to the logging and mining companies, enquiring about gifts of property, but so far, nothing has gelled.

“After GPS searching and boots on the ground searching, we found another alternative in going after crown land,” said Brown. “We’ve located a beautiful 10-acre parcel of land that could be ours on application to the province for a 30-year, renewable, nominal rent tenure.

“The solution would help us put shovels in the ground as much as two years earlier than if we had to purchase a market-rate property. The one big hurdle we have to jump through is that the property is outside the Gillies Bay Improvement District until it expands.”

Brown said the society is testing for water resources on the land and is advocating for the expansion of the improvement district.

“If there is no water on the land, and there’s no promise of the water service being expanded, there will be no project on this particular crown land site and we’ll be back looking for a market rate land purchase,” added Brown.

She said she was looking at how the regional district could encourage or direct the society in how it can advocate for the water extension.

Electoral Area D director and committee of the whole chair Sandy McCormick said the matter is outside of qRD’s jurisdiction.

“It is within the jurisdiction of the Gillies Bay Improvement District,” said McCormick. “I believe there is a process through the province that they have to go through to expand their boundaries. Whether they will be given permission to expand the boundaries, I can’t say, but that is really outside of our domain. That is between the improvement district and the provincial government.”