Affordable housing project planned for Penticton

The City of Penticton and the Province of B.C. have just announced a agreement creating affordable rental housing in the core of the city.

Rich Coleman

Rich Coleman

There is some housing relief ahead for people with low to moderate incomes living in Penticton.

The City of Penticton and the Province of B.C. have just announced a new agreement that will create affordable rental housing in the core of the city. Seventy new homes will be created along Brunswick Street to provide families with a safe, affordable place to stay in the city. Residents will also enjoy easy access to downtown Penticton and amenities at nearby Okanagan Lake.

The rental units will be built on city-owned properties at 284-298 and 260 Brunswick St. The province will arrange construction financing for the projects and a request for proposals for a non-profit housing society to design, construct and operate the first site will be issued in late November 2015. Provincial funding will be determined once qualified societies are selected.

“The city is putting up the equity in the land, we finance it, make sure it is capable of being below market, then we actually subsidize individuals in place as well,” said deputy premier Rich Coleman, who was joined by MLA Dan Ashton and Mayor Andrew Jakubeit at Penticton City Hall to make the announcement. “The society takes responsibility of running it, but we backstop their mortgage.”

Coleman said rental fees for the units will be worked out with the society chosen to manage it, though rent assistance will be available to those that qualify. Coleman’s announcement wasn’t the only good news for Penticton. Earlier in the day, the province also announced a partnership with the Penticton and District Society to create eight housing units for people with disabilities at 180 Industrial Ave., part of a deal to create a total of 110 units for seniors and people with disabilities in the Okanagan.

Besides the properties the city is investing, Jakubeit said the city is waving development cost charges for the affordable housing project. It is also in the city’s economic investment zone, so there is the potential for a five-year tax hiatus.

“Which is pretty remarkable, they are really stepping up,” said Coleman, adding that front end costs, like land and taxes, are the biggest problem with developing affordable housing.

But the financial costs aren’t the only ones to be reckoned with. The 260 Brunswick site is leased to the Penticton Lawn Bowling club until 2020, and the properties at 284-294 Brunswick St. — which will be developed first — are often used for parking for the club.

Larry Bechard, president of the lawn bowling club, said they found out about the project at the same time as everyone else. Planning for the future, he added, will start when their executive meets next week.

“It is so early that it really hasn’t sunk in yet. We have notified all our members by email,” said Bechard. The club, which has 60 members, has events daily during the summer and in the off season still has events a couple of times a week.

Bechard isn’t sure how long the club has been operating out of the Brunswick Street location, but said it has been a long run.

“I think it was brought into operation in 1935 or 1938, in that area. It has been a very good facility for us, we have no complaints,” he said. “The city will work with us and us with them in finding a new location as well. That has been promised to us.”