Smithers council is cautiously considering giving the Dik Tiy Housing Society a letter of support to go along with their application to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation as part of their new project to convert the old Hilltop Inn into affordable housing.
This letter would accompany the non-profit society’s application for seed funding to get the planning process started to renovate the building and maximize the potential for increased availability of affordable housing.
The group made the request to council at their last regular meeting but were met with plenty of concerns and questions from councillors.
The property they own now is on the corner of Main Street and Sixteenth Avenue, across the street from the other affordable housing project dedicated for seniors and people with disabilities, which is now almost complete.
The society’s plan is to keep the banquet room to host functions, including recreation and entertainment. The upper floor will have seven bachelor suites and two one/two bedroom units. The lower floor will transform into a mixture of office, residential, storage and kitchen space with the possibility of half bedroom units with kitchenettes.
The paved portion of the parking lot will be reserved for construction of a new affordable housing project at a future date, something similar to what is going up across the street.
Deputy Mayor Gladys Attrill questioned the group’s final vision for the project at the meeting but did not dispute the need for housing in Smithers.
“The Hilltop has its own profile, and they way I understand it, you want to duplicate the building that is across the street on the Hilltop property. That changes the neighbourhood quite a lot over time. How that situates and how the neighbourhood is involved is what is sitting in front of us now,” said Atrill. “The hard part is giving a letter of support for something without knowing exactly what it is going to be, how the neighbours will feel and what that neighbourhood will look like.”
Council continued to ask tough questions about how much parking their project will need, and how many affordable housing units are required to fill the need and what the building will look like once complete.
Judy Hofsink clarified to council that the letter of support is to show the Town is supportive of the planning process, not necessarily the end project just yet.
“The letter of support is mainly for us to get funds so that we can do all these things, it is not the final say for the building but so that we can plan it, do studies and plans,” she explained.
The Dik Tiy Society has been in talks with BC Housing, who ended up footing most of the bill for the other project, and they have also completed an RFP which will be available soon.
They are currently working with the Town to rezone the property as it needs to go through a full rezoning process to allow for a higher residential density.
“That would explore those issues but the challenge is putting a lot of energy and investment into the project at the front end knowing there is potential for those issues to come up,” warned Mayor Taylor Bachrach. “It is just one of the cautions, I suppose. It is probably less of a slam dunk than the other project was.”
The price tag on the almost complete project across the street is $5.6 million and BC Housing is covering the construction and capital costs. BC Housing said the project will generate income sufficient to cover the operating and maintenance needs and the Dik Tiy Housing Society will be the non-profit organization operating the building once construction is complete.