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New housing project looks to lift rental market temperatures from sub-zero climate

The pastor of Kootenay Christian Fellowship (KCF) watched the door slowly shut on available rental accommodations and affordability in Nelson for working class people as the housing market transitioned traditional rental units to short-term offerings over the last 10 years.

A nearly zero per cent rental availability rate in Nelson had troubled Jim Reimer for years.

The pastor of Kootenay Christian Fellowship (KCF) watched the door slowly shut on available rental accommodations and affordability in Nelson for working class people as the housing market transitioned traditional rental units to short-term offerings over the last 10 years.

But the seed of a solution to the housing problem germinated when KCF started Our Daily Bread — providing high quality, nutritious food to people in need in the community — several years ago. As Reimer and the ODB staff began to work with people that were poor, it became apparent a holistic approach was necessary for people’s health and emotional security.

“And that health and emotional security is directly related to food and safe, affordable, and secure housing,” he said as his latest vision, the 39-unit Herridge Place development, prepares to enter the rental market on Oct. 1.

The development — which includes affordable one-bedroom rental units for the local workforce — can’t come on stream soon enough. People who have jobs in Nelson and are contributing to the economy and the vibrancy of Nelson are left on the outside looking in, Reimer said, unable to afford the rent of the few units that come available, or having no option at all for a place to live.

In the quest for affordability KCF conducted a study on the issue in 2015 and found an estimated need for 200 new rental units in Nelson to alleviate the problem.

Although Herridge Place and two Nelson CARES projects will add around 100 units to that equation this fall, a recent KCF study found there could be another 200 needed.

“Affordable housing in Nelson continues to be our number one issue for this community,” said Reimer.

COVID concerns

The project was complicated by the COVID-19 pandemic, like everything else in society.

The pandemic delayed the opening of the building, and provided shipping challenges related to the world-wide virus crisis.

But because he was able to work with some great people — including the Share Housing Initiative board, Cover Architectural, the construction company Chandos and BC Housing and housing consultant Joffre Pomerleau — the project was able to weather those storms.

“However, to see that we are at the place where the finish line is just ahead of us causes me to be filled with joy and great gratitude,” said Reimer.
Herridge Place also consolidates the services of Our Daily Bread, S.H.A.R.E. Nelson, Kootenay Christian Fellowship’s Sunday worship with now rental apartments for low income folks. 

Those aspects make the project’s trials palatable in hindsight, Reimer noted.

“When I see every unit filled with people and individuals going into their units, meeting on the rooftop, walking along the balcony, my heart will sing and rejoice that folks will have a secure, safe, and financially reasonable place to live,” he said.

“Brick and mortar is nice to look at, but it’s the people that will be living at Herridge Place and the folks that made it happen that, to me, is the most meaningful thing.”

Making the pitch

In delivering the project vision to council almost four years ago, Reimer challenged city councillors to make good on their campaign claims to place affordable housing creation as a paramount task on their to-do lists.

“The location is prime, the views are incredible and the opportunity is now. And the opportunity is real,” he said at the time about the project. “Here is an early opportunity to support something tangible,” and make good on campaign promises.

The $6.5-million project was pitched as a three-storey structure with two or three commercial rental units on the first floor and 39 rental units on the second and third floors.

The goal of the initiative was to provide minimum or low wage earners quality housing in the downtown core that falls into the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s (CMHC) 30 per cent (or less) range of gross income affordability.

Reimer said two of the greatest perceived housing needs in Nelson are “at risk” youth and young adults (18-22 year old age group,) seniors and single adults at risk of homelessness because their income is below affordable rental rates in Nelson.

KCF owns the property and all units — a mix of bachelor and one-bedroom units — and it will be managed by a subsidiary of KCF.

Source: TND files

Bricks and mortar

Located at 102 Herridge Lane, Herridge Place is intended for individuals or couples working in the hospitality, retail and service sectors in Nelson.

All units are to be self contained and monthly rents will be determined by the tenant’s household income and will range from $375 to $950.

To be eligible for a unit, residents must have an annual household income of less than $74,150, already have employment and be a Canadian citizen or permanent resident.

SHARE Housing Initiative Society donated the land for the project and will own and operate Herridge Place. Columbia Basin trust and the province also contributed funding for the project.

Source: Province of B.C.