There are quite a few affordable housing options available in the Parksville/Qualicum Beach area — yet unless you are of a certain age or making more than a certain amount of money, those options may be closed to you.
The newest affordable housing option in Parksville is Hustwick Place, being opened by the Parksville Lions Club. This 33-unit building replaced an older Lions structure that was home to seniors on a fixed income. Those people were given first choice of units in the new building, said Lions housing society president Jim Hoffman.
The remaining units, he said, are for people 45 years old and up, who fall within a certain income bracket and who can afford spending 30 per cent of their income on rent. The range of rents, Hoffman said, start at $420 per month for 28 affordable housing units. The other five units will be $915 per month — based on Statistics Canada’s formula for low end market rent.
Designed for the older set, the Lions building includes commercial space on the ground floor and a common area for the tenants. The local service club is now seeking tenants and are working within BC Housing rules on who can qualify, especially local people.
“You gotta be the right age and there must be a need,” Hoffman said, “and you must be living in a place that’s not working. And, if you are making too much income, you won’t get in.”
Simply put, BC Housing rules state that the unit won’t cost people more than 30 per cent of their annual income. That keeps initial rents between the $400 and $900 range. Hoffman added, however, there are planned rent increases of four per cent each year.
That said, Hoffman added there’s been no shortage of applicants.
For rent-controlled units, the Lions operate another facility on Moilliet Street in Parksville — the 33-unit Lions Pioneer Village. These are subsidized, said Hoffman, by the province, and are always full.
Elsewhere in the community the Lions operate Gillingham Estates — 20 family-oriented units — on Morrison Avenue.
“We are a service club,” Hoffman stated. “This is what we do.”
Yet, he sees the need growing in the community for more affordable housing.
“It’s amazing, the lack of turnover in these places. And since it is so low, there’s more of a need here.”
Building new affordable units certainly is possible, he continued. The City of Parksville, with its incentives and overall policy to seek out such opportunities, helped the Lions save some $125,000 in costs.
“They’ve really stepped up to the plate,” Hoffman said.
Other local service clubs also operate affordable housing. The Royal Canadian Legion has a facility (to come) and the Kiwanis Club owns 20 units for people age 65 and up in Qualicum Beach.
At this Kiwanis Housing, rents are fixed at $350 per month, based on Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation rates from the 1970s.
Kiwanis president Pat Weber said they too follow the 30 per cent of income as rent formula.
“Kiwanis has housing developments all over North America,” he said, adding there’s a large one in Nanaimo that’s home to a variety of people from varying walks of life.
The Qualicum Beach site has been around for years and many times, the news if its existence comes as a surprise to people — a fact that shows such housing can co-exist with the rest of the community.
The area it’s located in is beautiful and forested — a desirable property and not a place out of the way.
“Affordable housing is important, yes,” said Weber. “However, people are having to live further out of town to be able to afford a place to live and then that causes transportation issues. they d link, when you start looking at affordable living.”
With plenty of small businesses in Qualicum Beach, Weber said the wages they are able to pay can only go so far in a community where median house prices are quite high.
“So, where will those people who work at those jobs, live?” he asked.
There are plans to expand the improve the Kiwanis Housing facility, said Weber.
While those plans are still in the works and are, presumably, years away from reality, they involve significant improvements, additional units, while maintaining the site’s low-rise emphasis and greenery.
When it is built — in a time frame of anywhere from 18 months to two years or more — Weber said rents will be going up.
It’s unavoidable, he said, in order for Kiwanis to be able to pay for improvements.
Plans are to take the existing 20 units and add another 22 over a series of phases. The new units will be two-storey structures and will continue to blend in with the green surroundings.
Proceeding, however, depends largely on town approval and having the money to get the work done.
In the process, Weber said existing tenants would have to be housed elsewhere — but are the first priority to move back into the new units.
The series continues Friday, with a look at local affordable housing policies.