An affordable housing project under construction in Williams Lake has received an $8-million boost from the provincial government this week.
Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Selina Robinson, was in the lakecity Monday morning to make the announcement across the street from the new 39-unit building, which is a joint project between the Association for Community Living Williams Lake and BC Housing Management Corp.
“The investment is part of a commitment we made last September to bring online 1,700 units of affordable housing, so this is one of those projects we had been looking at,” Robinson told the Tribune. “We are thrilled that it is here in Williams Lake. We are committing $1.9 billion in funding for municipalities, non-profits and co-operative housing societies to build the kinds of affordable homes that people need.”
Ian McLaughlin, executive director for the Association of Community Living Williams Lake, said they received the official announcement about the funding about a month and a half ago.
“There was money available from CMHC to get started and do some of the pre-development stuff, and then B.C. Housing has pre-development funding, so you can get started before the official word.”
The total cost for the project will be close to $11 million,he said.
McLaughlin acknowledged Cariboo Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett and City Council for their support.
In turn, Barnett said without the hard work of people like McLaughlin and the association, advocating for the people they look after, projects such as the new housing for Williams Lake would never happen.
“It is a great funding announcement,” Barnett added.
Determining the need is usually the most difficult part of getting funding for projects, Mayor Walt Cobb said.
“To get the plan in you have to be able to identify the need,” Cobb said.
McLaughlin said fortunately the City had done a housing study, which made it easier for his organization to put together an application.
Robinson said the government is actually using that model and last spring legislated that every five years local governments have to complete a housing-needs assessment.
“That’s so we don’t get into this housing crisis again,” she said. “It’s been awful and local governments, because they are responsible for land-use planning, and what kind of housing gets built and where it should get built, having a housing-needs assessment will help. We are just finalizing what kind of information will be needed in those assessments.”
In some communities people are leaving because there is no affordable housing, she added, to which Cobb replied, “we are encouraging people to come here.”
Anne Burrill, with the Fraser Basin Council, is the project lead for Bridging to Housing First in Williams Lake and Thrive, a poverty-reduction project.
“We are definitely a community that struggles to find homes for people and provide enough affordable housing for people who live on limited incomes,” Burrill said as she congratulated community living in receiving the funding. “Access to quality housing that people can afford is a foundation for people to make their lives better. It really is critical to addressing many other social issues and challenges that we have in our community and other communities.”
Karen Moberg, the association’s president, thanked McLaughlin for all his work.
“He’s gone above and beyond so many times to get this going,” Moberg said. “It’s been a lot of work.”
The project is expected to be completed by fall 2019. McLaughlin said there are already at least 20 people on a waiting list.