Housing Society exploring Habitat for Humanity possibilities

The Community Housing Society is exploring the possibility to staging a project with the internationally accalimed Habitat for Humanity program. Monday afternoon's blackout forced society directors to drag chairs from the lightless Business Information Centre boardroom and meet in the space between various second-floor offices. David F. Rooney photo

By David F. Rooney

The Community Housing Society is hoping to host a public presentation later this year regarding a potential project with the internationally acclaimed Habitat for Humanity program.

Society Chairman Mark McKee revealed the planned presentation during its Annual General Meeting held at the Business Information Centre on Monday afternoon despite that day’s power shortage.

“We think there might be an opportunity for (a public presentation) in the fall,” he said.

Habitat for Humanity has a variety of programs that help create affordable housing in Canadian communities. The international program was started by former U.S. president Jimmy Carter and has been lauded for its work around the world.

McKee said the society has had one successful project so far. That’s the duplex that was built last year on Oscar Street. Each unit boasts three bedrooms and has 1,100 square feet of living space. Built with a $250,000 grant awarded by BC Hydro in recognition of the impact its Unit 5 project at the Revelstoke Dam had on local rents, an $11,000 grant from the Columbia Basin Trust and a $170,000 mortgage from the Revelstoke Credit Union, they rent for $1,100 a month.

That may not satisfy many people’s definition of the word “affordable” but you would be hard pressed to find a rent that low on a comparably sized property.

“We were frustrated with the costs on that project,” McKee said. “We have to build all kinds of safeguards into our projects however we didn’t have a pot of money we could dip into.”

Access to money — or the lack thereof — is the single biggest impediment to an expanded housing program in Revelstoke. Because of the lack of ready financing a supportive housing project to assist people with disabilities and limited incomes as well as a proposed second-stage housing project for the Women’s Shelter have had to be put on hold indefinitely. The society has also been discussing the possibility of creating an emergency shelter for homeless citizens, but that faces the same obstacles as the other projects.

“We’re still looking at those but nothing is going to happen overnight,” McKee said.

Neither is the society’s long-desired project at Bridge Creek Properties. He said that “if senior levels of government won;t step up to the plate then the private sector has to do it.”

The society has offered to discuss the sale of half the 15-acre project site to a private developer and is currently discussing that with potential developers. That may come as a surprise to some, but it likely the only way that some or any of the projects the society wants can, in the absence of serious provincial or federal funding, come to fruition.

“I think there’s a misconception in the community that we’re supposed to be developers,” says society Director Glen O’Reilly. “We’re not.”

Instead the society has discovered that the best thing it can do is identify needs and find ways to satisfy them, ideally with broad public support, and adequate financing from either government or private sources.