By David F. Rooney
Two years ago when the local housing market was white hot, Revelstoke’s affordable housing project looked like a sure thing. Today, however, it is anything but. The Housing Society does have cash, but not a single shovel has broken ground at the site near Bridge Creek and it is highly unlikely that anything will happen before next year — at the earliest.
And just to frost that particular cake, the waiting list that once had about a dozen names on it now bears just a few. And only one of the people on that list would even qualify for a mortgage.
This is not the way many people thought it would work out when the affordable housing project idea gained momentum back at the height of the feverish housing boom only 24 months ago. Back then anything within sight of a $250,000 price tag looked like a unbeatable deal. What made those days even more anxiety-provoking was a dearth of rental housing as landlords started removing tenants, renovating their property and jacking up the rent to amounts in excess of $1,700 a month.
But then the bubble burst, producing the current situation. It is not one that makes Housing Society Manager Corin Flood a happy man.
“We have all of the development planning done for Bridge Creek,” he said in an interview. “But because our agreement with the City requires that we have purchasers prior to construction we went back to our wait list and looked at it and the wait list just didn’t have enough people on it who were: A) interested and B) qualified — the qualification being having the ability to borrow sufficient funds to purchase a unit. For a single family it was going to be hard to break the quarter-million mark.”
Consequently, Flood said the society looked at offering triplex structures that were capable of being expanded by having a second storey installed. “However, there were no takers,” he said. “So what you have is a wait list with few qualified people, all of whom want single-family detached homes.”
As if that wasn’t bad enough, the site requires about $1 million worth of servicing and underground work to make its 12 to 16 lots exploitable. That won’t go ahead before next year, Flood said.
“Sooo, every thing’s on hold but we have $250,000 worth of grant money from BC Hydro that we have a time limit on for using so we either have to have the money spent or committed to a specific project by the end of 2010,” he said. “That money is earmarked for rental housing.”
But appearances can be deceiving. Revelstoke’s affordable housing project looks dead in the water but in fact it is not.
“The need is almost certainly going to come back so it would be foolish to squander the investment to date,” Flood said. “We’re going to complete a housing status that looks at the current status of the market. Is there a real demand or a business case for multi-family housing? There are lots of issues.”
The currently cool housing market dampens anyone’s enthusiasm or willingness to buy into the Bridge Creek project with all of the covenants and restrictions they would be required to abide by. However, if one thing is certain: the Revelstoke housing market will heat up again; this is too desirable a place to live for it not to once again become a mecca for people seeking to escape the big cities.
“Twelve months ago it was different,” Flood said. “But the situation will change again and the board is committed to proceeding but in order to go ahead we are going to have to find people who will buy into it. What we will not do is build a project that we can’t rent or can’t sell.”
Here are two other views of the housing units proposed for Bridge Creek: