A phased redevelopment will see about 313 affordable rental units, mainly for seniors, added to the Burnside Gorge neighbourhood.
Victoria council approved the Chown Place Master Plan in late July, paving the way for the replacement of the 15 existing buildings housing low and fixed-income seniors between Harriet Road and Balfour Avenue. One-fifth of the redevelopment’s units will also be dedicated for families.
The master plan includes two six-storey apartment buildings that step down to four floors along Harriet Road and two four-storey ones that go down to three floors on the east side of the site. The project’s housing is rounded out by three townhome buildings, along with a four-floor, 58-unit apartment that’s been in construction since last summer.
The Gorge View Society, owner and operator of Chown Place, said the oldest of the existing buildings date back to the ’60s and while they’re in relatively good shape, they lack accessibility aspects needed by seniors.
At a July 28 public hearing, the society said monthly rents in the new units will start a $375 or amount to one-third of a household’s income. Some of the most vocal supporters at the hearing were current Chown Place residents, who highlighted how the spot gave them a safe home and the struggle of finding an affordable place to live as a senior.
“I think we can all agree that we have a housing crisis in our city and the depth of the crisis means that it can only be tackled through effective partnerships,” said Corinne Saad, the society’s executive director.
While acknowledging concerns they’ve heard about disruptive construction, Saad said time will separate each building phase as the society secures funding.
“But we’ve also heard that change is needed – that unsafe housing (and) couch-surfing for people in their 80s is not OK in this city.”
Before unanimously approving the project, council also heard from a majority of speakers who were supportive of the proposal. That included several local university students who praised the added homes after seeing their friends priced out of the city despite working multiple jobs.
The project wasn’t without pushback though as a few residents of the area took aim at the taller buildings. They mainly worried the height would lead to privacy issues, despite the stepped-down floors and other design elements aiming to create a transition to neighbours.
The master plan calls for the use of those higher buildings to increase the amount of overall green space at Chown Place. A large open field will be added near the protected Garry Oak meadow on the site, which will also have community garden boxes throughout.
Other elements of the master plan highlight a new pedestrian pathway linking Harriet Road and Balfour Avenue, a community centre and a central plaza.
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