Kamloops This Week
More than 100 new affordable rental units will open in Kamloops by the fall of this year.
Minister for Municipal Affairs and Housing Selina Robinson was at Horizon North in Kamloops on Wednesday to announce the province will spend $62 million on the construction of new housing projects at 317 Tranquille Rd. and 259 Victoria St. West, each containing 52 modular units.
The North Shore project will be managed by the ASK Wellness Society, while the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) will be responsible for the South Shore property, which is located next to its Emerald Centre shelter.
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Robinson said each modular unit, which will be built by Horizon North, will contain a private washroom and kitchen. The developments will also have common areas and amenity rooms for programs and services.
“They’re amazing,” Robinson said of the units, which take about 17 weeks to manufacture. “They provide dignity and privacy and they provide hope.”
Both developments will offer around-the-clock support services for tenants, including meals, life skills training, help accessing benefits, establishing bank accounts or obtaining identification and other supports to help them learn to maintain a home. They will also include room for shelter beds for when the mercury dips into dangerously cold readings.
“Folks will pay rent as well,” said CHMA executive director Christa Mullaly. “They make a commitment, they’re signing an agreement to be a tenant as well of all the wellness stuff we’re going to be offering as well.”
Bob Hughes, executive director of ASK Wellness, said both projects will have a staffing model similar to the Crossroads Inn project ASK operates on Seymour Street, but with a lower percentage of residents who are considered extremely high needs — 35 per cent at each, compared to 70 per cent at Crossroads.
“The rest will be people who just need a little bit of support to move on,” he said.
The announcement comes after a month of rumours on the North Shore that the Tranquille property, which formerly housed Western Restaurant Supply, would become a homeless shelter. The rumour has had a number of North Shore Business owners concerned, including Renato Uliana, owner of Sorriso Restaurant two blocks from the modular housing project.
Uliana, who previously told KTW the area is also home to too many service providers — which he said is hurting businesses and turning potential new tenants away — said he remains concerned about the Tranquille project, whether or not it is mainly used as a shelter.
He said he wants to see the city establish a North Shore version of the Customer Care and Patrol team run, by the Kamloops Central Business Improvement Association, adding that the modular housing building will need to be attractive looking.
“There’s nothing I can do about it, but as long as they can guarantee me they’re going to have something in the works to keep these people away from our storefronts, from our back of the store — that’s the biggest issue right now,” he said.
Hughes said he and Mullaly, as well as representatives from BC Housing, have been speaking to neighbours of both projects in the last several days and want to ensure the developments are managed in a way that solves neighbourhood issues rather than creating new ones.
“What we’re doing is about improving community safety,” he said. “It’s not about compromising people’s ability to run a business and be safe. It is very challenging and I think we can all recognize in the last two years the unfortunately synergy of addictions and homelessness have compromised many people’s compassion and dedication to helping the less fortunate.”
He said both ASK and CMHA will be looking to create good-neighbour accords and ensure neighbours and businesses have someone to call if there are issues. ASK and CMHA will continue to sit on community organizations, including the North Shore Business Improvement Association.
Mayor Ken Christian said residents can also expect community meetings next week that will answer more questions about the two projects.
“It’s great. It’s going to put more people into those downtown core areas and more people is good for business,” Christian said of the projects, noting they will also provide work for Kamloops residents. Horizon North president and CEO Rod Graham said affordable modular home projects, as well as other new endeavours, have led to the company doubling the number of employees across all areas of operations.
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Meanwhile, business associations on both sides of the river are lauding the announcement.
“The KCBIA supports long term, sustainable solutions to address homelessness, street issues and lack of social housing and affordable market housing,” Kamloops Central Business Improvement Association president Mike O’Reilly said. “An additional bonus is the fact that Horizon North is building modular housing units for supportive housing in communities across the province, which is a big economic boost for our city — a made in Kamloops solution for the province.”
In a release, the North Shore Business Improvement Association said the modular housing projects “illustrate our commitment to build strong and vibrant communities. These projects will create the change we seek through the provision of housing options that include adequate support and
wrap-around services designed to lift affected individuals and families out of poverty. This announcement is a significant step in reducing community impacts from our displaced populations, while allowing for the positive growth and development of our Tranquille corridor.”
The city is the ninth in the province to be selected for a modular development. The provincial government has committed to supply 2,000 of the units to communities over the next two years.
More information about the B.C. government’s modular housing program can be found by clicking here.