British Columbia

'We have a home': Okanagan Chinese Canadian Association finds new space after long search

Although the group received $250,000 from the B.C. Community Gaming Grant and more than $100,000 in donations, it struggled to find somewhere affordable  in Kelowna's hot real estate market. 

High prices in Kelowna hot real estate market made it tough to find space

'We got a home for people of diversity and the Chinese,' said Hua Meng, founding president of the Okanagan Chinese Canadian Association, left, next to current president Fu Ling in the southern Interior city of Kelowna, B.C. (Sarah Penton/CBC)

Hua Meng, founding president of the Okanagan Chinese Canadian Association, is feeling relieved now that the non-profit has settled into a new home just off Springfield Road in Kelowna, B.C. 

The group officially held an open house this week to show off the freshly renovated 1,500-square-foot unit they purchased in a duplex in the southern Interior city. 

"I feel very good. [I] feel we will not be worried about the space," said Meng. "It's small, but still we don't have to worry [about being] kicked out."

The new space has a kitchen, bathrooms and a multi-purpose area for the group to meet. There is also space outside to potentially pave a six-car parking lot one day.

The Okanagan Chinese Canadian Association's new home is 1,500 square feet. They hope to one day purchase the adjacent unit in the duplex so they can have more space. (Sarah Penton/CBC)

However, the path to getting the space wasn't an easy one. Although the group received $250,000 from the B.C. Community Gaming Grant and more than $100,000 of donations through a capital project campaign, even with the help of a mortgage, they struggled to find somewhere affordable to operate because of Kelowna's hot real estate market. 

The space the association previously rented had to be vacated last May because it was scheduled to be demolished to make way for a new construction project.

"[It was] very stressful," said Meng.  

The owner of the duplex, which used to have a care home inside of it, had wanted to sell both units together, but the association couldn't afford it, so they negotiated this past summer to buy only one side of the duplex for about $460,000.

"It [was] almost life or death for the OCCA," said Meng. "So the seller gave up the request of buying two units together to save our situation. So, I have to thank them a lot."

The other side of the duplex remains empty and they hope to one day to buy it so they can have more space, Meng told Radio West host Sarah Penton.

"This unit is very small for our needs. So we have to reduce some activity for now," she said.

More than a building

The association president is happy to have a place to call their own now, especially because it provides a home not only for the Chinese association, but it's also used by other cultural groups, including a local Korean group, a homework club for immigrants in the Okanagan and a Syrian refugee group.

"I personally feel, [my] mission [is] accomplished," said Meng.

"We got a home for people of diversity and the Chinese."

With files from Radio West

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