BC Housing has 83 housing units to show for $30M in Kamloops real estate in 2 years
BC Housing has spent $30 million on Kamloops real estate in the past two years, but only half of the buildings and units it has purchased are available as supportive housing and the number of people on the streets and in shelters just keeps growing.
Since 2021, the Crown agency has bought up multiple motels and an apartment building in Kamloops, largely focusing on adding supportive housing to the city's crunched real estate market. Less than half of the planned homes have been opened so far — just 83 of the 217 homes planned.
The first purchase was the Fortune Motel, which has since become Genesis Place under Canadian Mental Health Association's management. BC Housing bought the 40-unit motel for $3.6 million, planning to renovate both of its buildings before opening. That winter, pipes burst in the smaller building and renovations continued on the other. The flooded building was later torn down.
In September 2022, 28 remaining suites were opened in the supportive housing site.
The second building will be redeveloped eventually, but BC Housing hasn't released its plans. It's not clear how many homes it could provide once its built or what it will cost.
More recently, the Crown agency forked over $13 million for a fire-damaged apartment building at 435 Cherry Avenue, which was announced in April. With 42 apartments, residents are expected to move into the newly renovated building by mid-2024, according to the Crown agency.
It would have opened earlier, but BC Housing eventually found the seller didn't do all the repairs it promised in the contract. It later held back $250,000 from the sale to make up for the extra work, a BC Housing spokesperson said in an email.
Two fully-opened motels-turned-supportive housing sites include the Columbia Motor Inn and Lamplighter Motel. Both are managed by ASK Wellness Society and cost BC Housing a combined $10 million, including renovations.
Those 55 rooms, however, were already leased for the non-profit clients before the purchase, while most of the planned renovations are yet to be done.
The last outstanding project is the $3.7 million lot behind the Northbridge Motel, which will eventually host a subsidized housing complex for families and seniors. The City of Kamloops initially bought that property and the hotel in October 2021, striking a deal with BC Housing to sell off the rear lot.
Shovels haven't hit the dirt and although the City announced the Crown agency would take over half the purchase two years ago, BC Housing officially took over the land and got approval for the development just this spring.
It's not clear when construction will start nor how much it will cost.
Two years ago, there were at least 206 people who were homeless in Kamloops, including people sleeping rough or in shelters. An updated survey this April counted 312 people — a 50% increase.
By 2023 numbers, BC Housing has spent $96,000 per homeless person to build up the city's housing stock, but all that money isn't keeping up.
If needed urgently, the Crown agency has built modular housing projects, which pave the way for much quicker construction times.
“In the past, BC Housing has built modular homes as quickly as six months,” the corporation said in an email to iNFOnews.ca.
Kamloops already hosts some modular apartments, including Rosethorn House and Spero House, which were part of a provincial effort that began in 2017 to build supportive housing quickly.
Another in Kelowna was up in less than a year. The City of Kelowna bought the land in March of that year and it only took about nine months for the 38-unit modular Ellis Place supportive housing building to open.
“Timelines for modular housing developments, affordable or supportive housing, are influenced by several factors, including the site conditions, geography, availability of services such as water, sanitary and power — the design of the building itself, and the availability of a supply of modular units,” the email says.
Compared to standard construction times, modular is way faster and, with a 40- to 50-year lifespan, comparable in longevity.
“The trigger for redevelopment is often because the existing buildings have reached the end of their economic life and average 40-60 years of age,” the email says. “The most significant benefit for BC Housing of modular construction is the reduced production time with standardized design and off-site construction, which is critical for a community in dire need of housing."
The five Kamloops real estate projects are long-term projects, using buildings that are already standing or, in one case, a fully new build.
While the Crown agency works to repurpose motels and develop new projects on one hand, it will also have to continue funding multiple emergency shelters in Kamloops alone with the other.
A total 205 shelter beds are available in Kamloops this winter, increasing to 255 when nights are coldest.
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