LRCA Affordable Housing Project: Under Construction

LRCA Affordable Housing Project: Frequently Asked Questions

Looking for more information about the LRCA Affordable Housing Project?

You are in the right place! Here are answers to our most frequently asked questions.

As owner of the building, the LRCA will select the building’s tenants. However, the selection will be based on tenants fitting into specified populations and income groups (based on BC Housing criteria) and their individual suitability (e.g., the ability to live independently) for the building.

Our target populations are people with a developmental disability, low-income Seniors, and low-income families. These coincide with BC Housing’s target populations for the Community Housing Fund program. BC Housing’s target populations are aimed to facilitate the development of mixed income affordable housing and financial viability of the project. BC Housing specifies 3 income groups:

  • 30% of units must be for those of moderate income paying affordable market rents (90% of market rents)
  • 50% of units are ‘rent geared to income’ (RGI) with rents that are 30% of the tenant’s income,
  • 20% of units are low income, deep subsidy units (currently around $375 per month/welfare shelter allowance).

In accordance with BC Housing policies, the selection of building’s tenants for RGI and deep subsidy units will be from the BC Housing Registry. Once construction starts, people seeking to become tenants of the building will be able to put their name on the registry. A mix of ages, populations and incomes will help make the building more than just housing, it will contribute to the building of a community.

We anticipate construction will begin in the spring of 2021 and that the building will be completed in 12 to 18 months.

In 2017 the LRCA utilized a significant bequeathment from a long-term supporter/volunteer to purchase 314 Buller outright. Also in 2017, Canadian Housing and Mortgage Corporation (CMHC) granted $40,000 to the LRCA for project Design/Development (survey, municipal application fees, initial Architect design, etc.)

In late 2018 the LRCA was granted $3,500,000 by BC Housing conditional upon final project approval.  In 2020 the LRCA was also granted $317,000 by the Cowichan Housing Association toward capital costs. The remainder of the construction costs will come in the form of a low interest mortgage, financed by BC Housing and paid by the LRCA from rents charged to tenants.

The project will have 36 (4 studios, 27 one bedroom, and 5 two bedroom) units. This distribution of unit types is based on balancing need and affordability. It adheres to BC Housing formula requirements.

100% of the units will be universal design in terms of doorway widths, turning radiuses for wheelchairs and scooters, etc. 30% of the units will be adaptable (if required) to full accessibility (lower counters, sinks, etc.).

Common areas will also follow universal design guidelines.

The building will be built to BC Step Code 4. A Step Code 4 build will mean a building envelope that is over 50% more efficient than the standard BC Building Code in terms of airtightness and energy use. This will translate into greater comfort and air quality for tenants, as well as reduced operating costs. Once finished, it may well be the most energy efficient building in Ladysmith.

The building’s placement is the result of following best practices in design standards – namely placing parking out of view from the street.

In 2017, the LRCA adopted a new Vision to be The Centre of Social Change in Ladysmith. At the same time, a new Mission for the Organization was adopted “Enriching the lives of people in the community through advocacy, programs and partnerships”.

This Vision and Mission are decidedly proactive, and this housing is an ambitious project to proactively address some of the local housing crisis.

The LRCA provides programs and services to some of the most vulnerable people in Ladysmith. Many do not have access to safe and affordable housing. By providing housing, The LRCA is addressing a major contributing (upstream) factor to poverty for a number of our community members.

The Buller property was chosen due to its availability, price, and proximity to the current operations of the LRCA. It is expected that the LRCA will be providing program support (like the food bank, counselling, soup kitchen, income tax preparation etc.), to many of the individuals and families living in the building. We envision the building as part of the LRCA and the LRCA as part of the building.

The LRCA has provided services to the community since 1992 and has operated at its present site since 2011. Hundreds of people per week utilize LRCA programs at 630 - 2nd Ave. Over the years the LRCA has been a good neighbour, ensuring that day to day operations have a positive impact on the neighbourhood.

This project will be managed to the same high standards.

The continuum of housing consists of a range of shelter and housing options. It includes emergency shelter, supportive housing, affordable rental housing, rental market and home ownership. This project is affordable rental housing.

By providing affordable rental housing in a market where there are very low levels of vacancy, we can prevent people from becoming homeless.

Homelessness is a complex issue, but one of the root causes is low income and this creates a huge barrier in accessing housing where rental rates are so high.

In 2018 BC Housing issued a report on the impact of Non-Market Housing on Property Values. The study concluded that social housing/non-market housing, like that coming to the Buller site, had little to no negative effect on surrounding property values. In fact, in 11 of 13 case studies, surrounding property values rose - in some cases quite significantly/over 80%. In the 2 areas where prices decreased (Cranbrook and Vernon) property value decreases were seen across the whole municipality, suggesting that the non-market housing was not the cause of the decrease but followed a general trend.[i]

[i] https://www.bchousing.org/research-centre/library/community-acceptance/property-values-case-study-series&sortType=sortByDate

 

Many of the occupants of the building will not have a BC driver’s license because of disability, age, or will not be able to own a vehicle due to financial reasons. Hence the walkability and proximity of the building to the LRCA and the downtown area are beneficial. We anticipate that because of our target populations there will not be a significant increase in traffic in the area.

12 spots of parking will be removed from the Buller Street side, the boulevard reclaimed for pedestrian traffic with a winding sidewalk and ‘greened’ with trees, grass and plants. The onsite parking will add 18 parking spots and 11 parking spots will be added on 3rd Avenue.

Moving the parking will make the on-street spots much more accessible as they will no longer be on the significant Buller incline.

The majority of tenant traffic will come and go from the alleyway, mitigating traffic noise.

Computer-modelled shadow studies have been conducted on the design and show that the building will not shade surrounding properties.  When the church occupied the site it blocked views from the south side of Buller looking NE, and blocked views from the adjacent property at 320 looking E and NE. The new building will have the same effect on those views however it will open up the view to the NE for #320.

Unfortunately, there are not many properties located in Ladysmith that do not face this challenge. 314 Buller Street property was chosen due to its pricing, availability, and proximity to the LRCA and downtown shops and services. Efforts will be taken to reduce the mobility challenges of building on a hill including the creation of indoor parking/charging for scooters.

Lot size and financing limits the number of units that can be built.

Affordable Housing will support the LRCAs capacity to address the needs of the community. Social services make much more of an impact on an individual or on families when their basic needs, such as housing, are taken care of.

The project’s construction and operating budgets are, and will be, separate from the operations of the LRCA. BC Housing requires the building to be operationally sustainable and executes extensive financial reviews during the project design/development.

In 2015, 81% of the congregation voted to disband the church because of low attendance and the building being beyond repair. Representatives from the Ladysmith Historical Society and the Town of Ladysmith’s Heritage Revitalization Advisory Commission toured the structure and agreed that the building was not salvageable.

Artifacts of importance have been saved. This includes some signage, the church’s bell, the pinnacle of the steeple and two pews. The pinnacle and bell were donated to the Ladysmith Historical Society. The pews will be restored and utilized in the new building.

BC Housing and other government funders outline the allowable expenses and organizations are bound by these requirements. Many of the LRCA’s programs are reactive in nature, this project is proactive in nature. By reducing tenant’s cost of living expenses, it addresses upstream causes of poverty, thereby reducing reliance on the LRCA’s other programs.

The rezoning application (to allow increased density) was first considered by Council on August 20th, 2018. A Neighbourhood Information Meeting held on August 22nd, 2018, was a primary for community input.

Council referred the application to its Advisory Planning Commission (APC) for their consideration and input. The APC considered the application on September 13th, 2018 and the Committee recommended Council endorse it.

The rezoning application underwent a second reading at Council (November 19, 2018), followed by a Public Hearing, then a 3rd reading and a vote by Council which approved the rezoning, increased density and a variance allowing the building a maximum height of 14 metres, up from the 12 metres previously allowed on the site (January 21, 2019).

Following rezoning, building plans were finalized and a Development Permit was approved by Council on March 31, 2020. [i]

[i] https://www.ladysmith.ca/search?indexCatalogue=search&searchQuery=314%20Buller&wordsMode=0