By David F. Rooney
It’s just a duplex — no big deal as housing projects go — but for the Revelstoke Community Housing Society and the City their 2,220-square-feet of new, affordable rental housing on Oscar Street represents a true house-on-the-ground milestone that hopefully heralds more to come.
“Finally — we have something tangible for the community to look at,” Housing Society Chairman Mark McKee said Monday as society directors mingled with student construction workers and instructors from Okanagan College’s Residential Construction Program as well as supporters from the general public at a barbeque to mark the completion of the students’ work.
Frisby Ridge Construction will finish the duplex.
“These will be great homes for two families,” McKee said, adding in an interview that the two units, which won’t be ready for occupancy before autumn, will likely be rented out at about “30 per cent below the market rate.”
McKee’s comments about the duplex being great is true. Each home in duplex is 1,110 square feet. Each has three bedrooms, two bathrooms and under-floor heating. They also have great views of Mount Begbie.
The units were built specifically as rental units with $250,000 in seed money from BC Hydro. Hydro gave the City the money a few years ago to help mitigate the impact the Unit 5 workers had on the local rental accommodation market. At the time rents were jacked skyward and many renters were forced out of their homes by landlords who wanted to slap on new coats of paint so they could raise the rents. Not all landlords were like that, of course, but there were enough evictions for profit that a lobby group, Renters’ Voice, was started.
Housing prices have, for now, collapsed but they are bound to go back up at some point. McKee and the society’s directors hope that by the time that happens they’ll have more affordable homes built to accommodate the middle-class managers, professionals, small-business owners, workers and tradespeople Revelstoke needs in order to function.
“Money’s the key,” said Director Peter Bernacki.
With single-family home prices dropping there’s a general sense that there’s no hurry to build the affordable housing required by the new police officers, teachers, nurses and others who want to come here. But now is the time to find that money and start building, said Director Glen O’Reilly.
“Costs will only go up,” he said.
In the meanwhile, though, McKee, Bernacki, O’Reilly and other society directors can take some comfort in the fact that the society has finally delivered an affordable housing project to the community. Now if only it can deliver on a larger scale — say Bridge Creek Properties.
Here are some photos from today’s event: