220 affordable, supportive housing units announced for Victoria
Development will include community centre, gymnasium, child care
A new housing development bordering Victoria's downtown and North Park neighbourhoods will create space for more than 200 people in need of affordable or supportive housing in B.C.'s capital city.
On Wednesday, the city announced the development, featuring 170 affordable housing units and 50 supportive housing units and a community centre with a gymnasium and child-care facilities. The development will be built at 930/926 Pandora Avenue, a city-owned, currently vacant property.
The project is a collaboration with the provincial government, through the support of B.C. Housing and Capital Region Housing Corporation. The affordable units will be made available through the Community Housing Fund and funding for the 50 supportive housing units will be provided through the Supportive Housing Fund.
Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps said those housing units are "very, very badly" needed in the city, adding that the vacancy rate is currently 0.8 per cent in the region.
"If you're a young working family looking for a rental apartment, it is virtually impossible to find," she told On the Island host Gregor Craigie.
Helps said the building will be six storeys and there will be units with two or three bedrooms to account for families in need.
Sarah Murray, executive director for the North Park Neighbourhood Association, said the affordable housing units will be a welcome addition to the area.
"We don't want families to have to move out of North Park or out of the downtown neighborhood because they can't find suitable housing," she said.
Publicly funded buildings like this are necessary in Victoria, Helps said, because with the cost of land and construction, private companies can't offer the level of affordability that's required.
Murray also expressed excitement around the creation of a community centre.
"We don't have a home base to offer important services like child care, accessible only, just programming a welcoming community, gathering space or to host community meetings and events."
However, that particular part of the neighbourhood has historically had a high concentration of services for marginalized communities, Murray said, which has made some people in North Park feel unsafe.
She hopes the development will be the start of a revitalization project for the entire corridor.
"When we think of a space where a community centre would thrive, it's one where seniors would be walking over to come to chair yoga, and newcomers would feel safe accessing a commercial kitchen, and parents would feel comfortable dropping their kids off for child care, and everyone would have safe and inviting use of outdoor amenities," she said.
Helps said there will be communication with the North Park and downtown neighbourhoods about what the community centre should look like and who will run it.
"The idea of the project isn't just a community centre. It isn't just housing. It really is meant to be an inclusive revitalization project," Helps said.
She expects construction to begin within the next year.
Click here to listen to Mayor Helps's interview on CBC's On the Island:
With files from On the Island and All Points West