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Proposed Sidney development promises to increase rental housing supply

A proposed 71-unit-development promises to improve the supply of rental housing in Sidney.

Plans for the three-storey development on Fifth Street near the intersection with Malaview Avenue will now appear before Sidney’s planning advisory commission (PAC) scheduled to meet Nov. 5 after Monday’s regular council meeting, where councillors confirmed their unanimous support of the development earlier this month.

“I have to commend you on something that we desperately need in this community, which is rental built housing,” said Coun. Scott Garnett earlier this month after a presentation from the proponents – Michael Nygren, president of District Group, and Renante Solivar, MCM Parternship Architects. “I appreciate the fact that you have not made it look like a rental building. I like the character and the form that it takes, and it doesn’t strike me as your traditional rental building [from the 1970s and 1980s]. It looks like home, for a lack of a better way of putting it.”

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Gable roofs and a varied scholar scheme aim to give the development an oceanside village esthetic.

Of the 71 dwelling units, eight are three-bedrooms; four are two-bedrooms; 13 are one-bedrooms with a den, 35 are one-bedrooms; and 11 are studio units, according to a staff report, with unit sizes ranging from 38.6 m2 (415 square feet) to 104 m2 (1,120 square feet).

While exact figures were not available, a nearby rental building owned by District Group charges around $1,200 for studios, $1,500 for one-bedrooms, $1,800 for one-bedrooms with den, in excess of $2,000 for two-bedrooms, with larger units approaching $2,500.

“That would be a proxy for what rents would be,” said Nygren.

The development receives financial support from B.C. Housing through a program aimed at middle-income earners, he added. “They effectively provide us a financing package. In exchange for that, we provide a minimum 10-year-covenant that [says] all tenants have to meet an income test that they define,” he said. “I can’t tell you what that income level is yet. We are still going through the process.”

Nygren tried to ease concerns that this affordable component of the project would disappear after 10 years. While he could not offer a longer arrangement, he said his company has no plans to turn the units into condominiums after 10 years.

He said the economics of conversion make it almost impossible to stratify the units within 10 years. “We are long-term owners of rental product,” he said. “Our financial partners are long-term owners of rental product.”

Work on the project started 14 months ago. Features include underground parking that is also ready for electric vehicle charging, and solar-ready roofs with the building aiming for energy efficiencies commensurate with Step 2.

Coun. Peter Wainright praised the development. “This is the first time I have heard a proponent come forward with an affordable housing project, without making a big deal about that in their pitch, and you don’t ask for any variances or rezoning, or anything. This is really novel.”

Mayor Cliff McNeil-Smith recused himself, citing a conflict of interest by way of a family relationship with a member of the proponent’s team.


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