'The community has welcomed us': innovative townhome complex opens in northwest Edmonton

A new 16-unit affordable rental housing project in North Glenora was officially opened Friday.

Hsar Keelar and her family live in a new five-bedroom townhouse in North Glenora

Hsar Keelar expresses appreciation for her new home made possible through an affordable housing project in Edmonton. 0:53

Hsar Keelar couldn't be happier with her brand-new home in northwest Edmonton.

"It makes me and all of our family really, really happy," Keelar said Friday at the official opening of North Glenora Townhomes, a complex of 16 rental townhomes at 138th Street and 109A Avenue.

"The community has welcomed us," said Keelar, who moved into a five-bedroom rental townhouse in December with her husband, five children and her parents.

"We appreciate you all making our life so much better," she said at the opening. "There is a beautiful park and a playground across the street."

Westmount Presbyterian Church began planning the project four years ago as it considered the future of an aging building and dwindling congregation.

It partnered with Right at Home Housing Society to demolish the old building, then build a much smaller church and daycare beside the 16 new three- and five-bedroom townhomes.
The front of one of the townhouses in a 16-unit development at 138 St and 109A Avenue in the North Glenora neighbourhood. (CBC)

​The rental rate is based on a family's income, which means some are heavily subsidized while others are closer to market rates.

The housing society gathered funds from the Edmonton Community Foundation to get the project started, then pulled in a grant from the provincial government, and donations from The Stollery Foundation and Southminster-Steinhauer United Church.

The project is fully net zero, said Cam McDonald, executive director of Right at Home Housing Society.

Net zero homes produce as much clean energy as they consume. 
Hsar Keelar (far left) stands with elected officials and agency representatives at the official ribbon-cutting Friday of the North Glenora social housing project. (CBC)

The work of builder Habitat Studio is being recognized provincially and nationally on how to achieve net-zero housing with a multi-family complex, McDonald said. "It's really quite something."

More kids for nearby school

The 16 families now living in the complex have more than 35 elementary-aged children between them, which has bolstered enrolment at nearby Coronation School.

Having a school so close is something Hasan Assaf is grateful for. He lives in a three-bedroom unit with his wife and four children.

"Before I [had to] drive my children every day. Right now I save my time," said Assaf. "I am very happy and my children are very happy."

The project is an example of the "missing middle" when it comes to infill housing, said Mayor Don Iveson.

It's affordable housing that is attractive to look at and sets "the bar high for all neighbourhoods," he said.

About 5,000 families in Edmonton are on the wait list for social housing, Iveson said.

The federal government has promised a $40-billion investment in affordable housing in the coming years, and it's expected that Edmonton will benefit from some of that, he said.