British Columbia

'It's a home for immigrants': Okanagan non-profit desperate to find new, affordable space

The Okanagan Chinese Canadian Association (OCCA) needs a new facility by the end of May because the building it’s renting is slated for demolition. Though the association has about $500,000 in the bank, it still can’t find an affordable space.

Kelowna’s hot real estate market hampers Okanagan Chinese Canadian Association's search

Okanagan Chinese Canadian Association president Ling Fu (left) and association administrator Hua Meng (right). (Submitted)

Hua Meng drives around Kelowna every day looking for a suitable space for the Okanagan Chinese Canadian Association (OCCA) to rent or buy. The space it now operates from is slated for demolition, and the association has to be out by the end of May. 

But nothing that fits its needs matches its budget.

Though the association has about $500,000 in the bank, it still can't find an affordable, suitable space to operate from.

"[The market] has severely limited the purchasing power," Meng, one of the founders of the society, told Radio West host Sarah Penton. Meng estimates the association will need to come up with another $200,000 by the end of the month to buy a space in time.

The OCCA incorporated in 2010, and has been at its current location ever since. People of diverse backgrounds, not just those of Chinese heritage, use the space to make friends, get advice about the challenges of moving to a new country and to volunteer.

"It's a home for immigrants," Meng said.

The Okanagan Chinese Canadian Association has to find a new home by the end of May 2019. Though it has managed to raise $500,000, it still can't find an affordable, suitable space. (Submitted)

The association was told in 2016 that at the end of May 2019, it would need to vacate its current location so the building could be demolished to make room for a low-income housing development. The OCCA launched a capital projects campaign to secure money to buy its own building.

"We have been operating from this building for the past 10 years," Meng said.  "The landlord, the Pathways Abilities Society, treated us so very kindly and charged us a very affordable rate."

The association needs a space that's about 2,000-square-feet. Ideally, Meng said, it would find something centrally located to accommodate people travelling to the centre from all over the city.

The OCCA plans to continue fundraising — the first $100,000 it made was through donations from members during the capital project campaign. After that, it was awarded $250,000 from the B.C. Community Gaming Grant, which meant it would have a mortgage of $150,000.

Meng said the association plans to open donations to the public in addition to asking for help from members.

If it can't come up with the money or find an affordable space by the end of May, Meng said the association will look at sharing a space with another organization or renting something temporary until it can raise the funds to purchase a suitable facility.

With files from Radio West