Dozens of people made their way out to tour Keremeos’ newest and biggest housing project on Wednesday, Oct. 19.
The Lower Similkameen Community Services Society was hosting tours from 9 a.m. of the Ambrosia development, ahead of the official ribbon cutting.
“I think I can speak on behalf of the whole team, there’s a collective sense of relief to be transitioning from the demands of construction to actually giving people homes, and matching people to the right units,” said executive director Sarah Martin. “So I think everyone is really pleased to see the final leg of the construction journey finish.”
Ambrosia also made history for Keremeos as being the first housing development to have an elevator.
The 43 residential units are broken up into three accessible studio apartments, 22 one-bedroom suites, four of which are accessible, 12 two-bedroom suites and four three-bedroom family suites. Ambrosia also hosts space for the LSCSS’ offices and programs. Every unit has a balcony, and there are other amenities such an outdoor playground area and bicycle storage for residents.
After years of ‘musical chairs’ with the 21 programs at their old offices, including programs like Meals on Wheels, there is now more space for everything. For the last 10 days the staff has already been in their new offices and program spaces.
“Staff love it, especially the bigger spaces, and we already have demand for the meeting rooms,” said Martin. “We have local service organizations already asking if they can use them.”
The old offices and program space are still in use, where the LSCSS will be operating their early years and infant development programs, along with their peace counselling. The LSCSS is also now able to rent out some space to other community-focused services, including spaces to a local physician and some alternative health practitioners.
Now that construction has completed, the work will begin on filling the rooms. Unlike other housing projects, the registration wasn’t opened until Ambrosia was close to completion.
“We intentionally stayed away from promising suites until we actually had keys in hand,” said Martin.
The goal is to have the residential spaces filled by the spring, and so far there are over 250 applicants.
Martin noted that the number of applicants so far was skewing away from families, which the LSCSS hoped to see to fill the three-bedroom units. Some of the units will be subsidized, for renters who are seniors or have a disability, while others will be geared to income.
One of the new residents of Ambrosia is Keremeos’ Albert McCormick, whose room will give him a view of the new community garden, and a set of cameras with two-way speakers will also allow him to communicate with volunteers and visitors from indoors.
Walter Despot, former mayor of Keremeos, was there when the society got its start back in 1974.
“It’s come a long way, and it’s the most valuable organization in the South Similkameen,” he said. “Anything to do with health, social services, it revolves around the [LSCSS]. There was a lot of planning that went into this, planning by a lot of people that have given the community this.”
Funding from the Canadian Mortgage and Housing kickstarted the exploration for Ambrosia, and once a plan was in place, BC Housing funded the residential project.
“For years there was no public housing development, now the government’s throwing money at it,” Brian Mennell, the president of the LSCSS board told the gathering of staff, dignitaries and visitors at the opening.
Outgoing Keremeos Mayor Manfred Bauer also spoke at the ribbon cutting.
“Thank you to all the volunteers who got involved in this, it is what makes it all the more a piece of pride in the community,” he said. “I don’t have to talk about necessity. Everybody knows how important housing is these days, so thank you and I hope we can continue on this path.”
Once work is done at the Cactus Court development to fix the issues left by the original developer, the LSCSS will be responsible for managing 123 residential units in Keremeos.
The LSCSS recently approached and received a letter of support from the Village of Keremeos to pursue another affordable housing development in the future.
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