By the autumn of 2017, Sidney’s housing stock will see the addition of a five-story, 56 unit apartment complex on Fourth Street, but this project comes with a difference.
At least half the units in the apartment complex will be designated “workforce affordable housing” thanks to The Greater Victoria Rental Development Society (GVRDS). The nonprofit organization dedicated to developing “new-build”, non-subsidized, affordable housing on Vancouver Island for working people.
Alanna Holroyd, a founder and current executive director of the GVRDS, recounted how, in 2009, she and a group of like-minded individuals realized there was a housing problem on the Island and sat down to develop a plan to address the situation. They hoped to provide low- to middle-income workers a housing alternative with reasonable rents, allowing workers to save enough money to someday achieve home ownership.
hey have some extra income (after paying rent) that they can improve their quality of life and even save for the future,” said Holroyd. “It’s a way for working families to get ahead.”
The concept is based on a self-sustaining business plan that mixes lower cost suites with units available at market value. The affordable suites are rented to tenants with rents based not upon market value, but on the renter’s income level and the CHMC housing affordability guidelines. The building would also house some commercial rentals on the ground floor; again rented at market value for the space.
The Sidney project is the fourth for GVRDS, with the previous three buildings constructed in Victoria (two on Gorge Road and one on Blanshard Street). In total, the group will have added more than 240 affordable housing units to Vancouver Island.
“I cannot say enough about the team’s support. They keep an eye on the budget right from the land acquisition and through the process of design, rezoning, rendering, construction and occupancy,” said Holroyd. “These are consultants and construction personnel who support the concept of giving back to the community. We couldn’t do it without them.”
The Town of Sidney also deserves credit, said Holroyd. Sidney waived the development fees assigned to the project and allowed a 10-year tax exemption on the residential portion of the project.
“We know the projects can only be successful if the projects are financially viable. That’s why our business plan is so important. We also know we need long term income generated by the projects to allow for future growth of the concept and for future projects to be possible,” said Holroyd, adding the GVRDS has shown they are capable of getting a new building “out of the ground” on the average rate of one every 18 months.
But she is quick to point out that the final success of the business plan hinges on the operation of the buildings once construction is complete and the tenants move in.
“We have a remarkable management team at Randall North who does an outstanding job of maintaining the investment and focusing on giving the tenant a great, affordable place to live,” said Holroyd, noting that through effective management, the organization has been able to increase the percentage of affordable units in its buildings to up to 80 per cent.
In order to qualify for the affordable units, prospective tenants must be employed and must submit copies of pay stubs and a letter confirming employment status.
Applicants can contact Randall North Management Company to apply for one of the units.
“We’ve have more than 40 people on the wait list at the moment, so the level of interest and need for this sort of housing is apparent,” said Holroyd, “We believe that pride of self (home) ownership can start at your rental apartment.”