By Scott Stanfield, Comox Valley Record
Original article: http://www.comoxvalleyrecord.com/news/322992611.html

Courtenay Council has selected the Wachiay Friendship Centre and M’akola Group of Societies as joint sponsors of the proposed Braidwood housing project — council’s top priority in recent years. It would be for a five-year term.

Theirs was the lone response to a Request for Proposal seeking organizations to operate an affordable or supportive housing project at 810 Braidwood Road in east Courtenay. Their response included expressions of interest from groups such as the Comox Bay Care Society, LUSH Valley Food Action Society and AIDS Vancouver Island.

“Working to address issues of homelessness and affordable housing is a priority for Wachiay,” executive director Michael Colclough says in a news release.

A working group notes the challenge of housing a substantial number of homeless people at Braidwood, considering the lack of operating subsidies for non-market projects and the scarcity of rent supplements for low-income tenants. Still, council commended M’akola and Wachiay for stepping up to make the proposal.

“I think there are many of us in the room who would hope that after the upcoming federal election we may actually have a national government that has a housing strategy,” Coun. Doug Hillian said at the Aug. 17 meeting. “And we would hope that the province would come to the table with funds as well.”

BC Housing also supports the project, says City CAO David Allen.

“They feel that we’ve got a strong potential partner here,” Allen said. “They have a good track record.

“Even though we got the one proposal, it’s a strong proposal. It’s not without its challenges, clearly, because money is a challenge.”

The proposed complex is not intended to be a homeless shelter but a supportive housing project to address a wide range of in-need and at-risk tenants. BC Housing has provided a $50,000 loan towards the project. Just $7,890 has so far been spent. The remainder will be available for the design of the project.

Allen notes the need to build partnerships — thus the five-year term — to raise additional funds for capital works.

The City will fund about $700,000 in project costs. Most costs are the land — which has already been paid by regional district funds that were transferred to the City to purchase the Braidwood property through the sale of three lots at Cliffe Avenue, where the project was originally intended — and development cost charges (DCCs).

Should unit sizes be reduced to less than 312 square feet, the project would be exempt from DCCs, which would reduce the City contribution by $12,205 per unit.

M’akola is prepared to provide $250,000 and Wachiay 30,000 to $40,000 in sponsor equity towards the capital cost.

“M’akola Development Services looks forward to discussions with the City of Courtenay to move the Braidwood project forward,” says M’akola CEO Kevin Albers. “Working with local partners is a cornerstone for projects that M’akola participates in.”