An exercise in teamwork was on display Thursday at the Garth Homer Centre in Saanich.
An announcement of funding and progress on a residential and social service project in the Nigel Valley brought together four local organizations to celebrate what could prove to be a regional model for affordable housing and care for some of the community’s most vulnerable.
In all, the nearly 800-home redevelopment of a number of properties bordering Vernon Avenue will provide a total of 440 non-market rental homes, 255 units of market-rate housing, 37 assisted living and 41 residential care units, and 25 supportive living homes.
Getting this massive project rolling is Broadmead Care’s new Nigel House, which will replace the existing residence for 26 adults aged 19 to 55 who require long-term care. The 88-unit project includes all of the residential care beds and assisted living units, as well as 10 non-market rental units for independent seniors, with a special focus on veterans. Work began on the site a number of months ago and the building is targeted for a 2024 completion.
Federal Housing Minister Ahmed Hussen, who was in Saanich recently for a funding announcement for a Baptist Housing seniors project, joined Victoria-Swan Lake MLA Rob Fleming in reannouncing government funding for Nigel House. That amounts to roughly $47.5 million from BC Housing for construction financing and a $5.2 million grant from the province, and $3.2 million from the National Housing Co-Investment Fund.
“This is not just a celebration for Broadmead Care, it’s a celebration of Nigel Valley,” said Broadmead Care president/CEO Derek Bernardo, speaking of the group that also includes the Garth Homer Society, Greater Victoria Housing Society (GVHS) and Island Community Mental Health Association (ICMHA).
GVHS executive director Virginia Holden welcomed the opportunity to collaborate with other like-minded agencies to “do some really cool non-market development that is so direly needed in our community.”
GVHS currently has an 18-unit townhouse cluster on the site it aims to redevelop into 70 new affordable rental homes for lower- to middle-income families. The organization specializes in larger units designed for families and Holden noted that three- and four-bedroom units are highly sought after. GVHS is shooting for late 2022 to break ground on the project.
ICMHA, which operates 63 units at its aprtment buildings on Darwin and Nigel avenues, will see an increase of 182 homes in its part of the new construction. Many of those homes will go to people experiencing a mental health condition, said executive director Chris Forester.
While residents in most of the existing social housing properties in the Nigel Valley will be able to stay while new construction is happening, the Garth Homer Centre will need to find a new location. The new centre will be the hub for the society’s programs and services for people with mental and physical challenges, and the Nigel Valley community as a whole. The Garth Homer Society is also building 90 new homes in an integrated, inclusive community.
Saanich Coun. Zac de Vries, who chairs the district’s housing committee, noted the Nigel Valley project has taken a long time to come to fruition but fits well in the municipality’s desire to see housing built across the spectrum. Projects such as this, which would otherwise be unaffordable for non-profits, need the influx of senior government funding, he said.
“That’s why it’s really important that we have robust partnerships like this one to deliver on the needs of the most vulnerable residents, all the way from families to seniors and people with complex care needs.”
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