An affordable housing project in Tofino celebrated another funding victory last week, receiving $3.8 million from the provincial government.
“It’s fantastic. We’re super pleased. We’re most of the way down the road of many years of hard work by many people and collectively it’s great what’s happened and I’ll be really pleased the day we’re celebrating people moving into these homes because that’s ultimately what our goal is,” Tofino Housing Corporation executive director Ian Scott told the Westerly News after the funding was announced. “The funding announcement is a great feather in the cap and it’s something to celebrate, but we’ll really be celebrating when people are moving in.”
The THC is working with Catalyst Community Developments to build 72 affordable rental units split between two apartment buildings as well as three duplex townhouses at 351 Arnet Road, commonly known as District Lot 114.
“A mix of studio, 1 bedroom, 2 bedroom and 3 bedroom units will be rented to families, seniors and others at a range of different rents,” the corporation’s website explains.
“Twenty per cent of the units will be affordable to those on fixed incomes or social assistance, 50 per cent of the units will have rents fixed to 30 per cent of household income and generally eligible to those making between approximately $25,000 and $65,000 and 30 per cent of the units will be affordable market units with rents ranging between approximately $900 and $2000 depending on unit size.”
In December, the project received $3.7 million from the provincial government’s Building BC: Community Housing Fund for the first apartment building. Last week’s roughly $3.8 million funding announcement comes from the same Community Housing Fund and will go towards the second apartment building.
Scott said he was confident the second grant application would bear fruit, but was also wary of the large number of important projects throughout B.C. competing for dollars from the same provincial funding source.
“It’s validation for all the work that we’ve put in in terms of demonstrating that Tofino really needs this and that we have a solid project plan and the community is behind it,” he said. “Given the number of communities that received a, ‘No’ answer, it is still quite humbling and really great news for Tofino.”
Shovels are expected to hit the ground for the first apartment building in the fall of 2021 and construction is expected to take 18 months to complete. There is no timeline yet for the second building.
Last week’s announcement wraps up the amount of funding the DL114 project had hoped to receive from the Community Housing Fund for the two apartment buildings, though Scott said it’s likely just the beginning of the work that needs to be done as the THC’s strategic plan aims to develop 180 units by 2030, which will require more funding to accomplish.
He said no further specific projects have been identified with the first step being to determine whether to keep building on DL114 or identify another location.
“This is an important and very laudable first step but I suspect, given the experience over the decades in Tofino as well as the experience of communities elsewhere who have taken these steps, that this is the start of a multi-year, multi-decade process of trying to get a handle on the housing situation in Tofino,” he said. “It’s really an infrastructure issue and a community issue that we’re going to have to be working at constantly, forever. I don’t think there’s a way you can stop.”
He suggested Canada’s federal government actively invested in and supported housing projects throughout the 1960s and 1970s, but that support fell off resulting in demand vastly outpacing supply.
“Their mistake collectively, governments at all levels, was to pull back from continued work and so we’re now in the situation we’re in now and if you look at housing prices across the country and the globe, both rental and ownership, they’ve continued to rise really quickly,” he said.
He said housing needs “constant” attention.
“It’s kind of like a water system. Once you build your first water plant, you haven’t solved water provision. You have to keep building and repairing and maintaining water lines and building more capacity as the population grows. It’s the same thing for community housing. It’s a need,” he said.
“It’s taken Tofino maybe too long to get going, but once you’re going you’ve got to keep going and you can’t stop because if you stop the problem is going to creep back up on you.”