Although she admits it’s only a first step, Sally Barton this week called the Regional District of Nanaimo’s decision to lease two parcels of Crown land in Bowser good news for local seniors.
The secretary for the Bowser Seniors Housing Society said the RDN board’s vote to accept the province’s offer of a nominal lease for the two parcels near Magnolia Court in Bowser significantly improves the prospect of getting affordable housing in the area.
“Currently there is no seniors housing in Bowser,” she said. “If someone wants to leave their house and go into a residence for seniors that has some supports with it, such as two meals a day and laundry services, they have to go to Qualicum Beach or Courtenay.”
The push to obtain some local options for seniors in Bowser was initiated by members of the Bowser Legion, who are all too aware of the aging demographic in the area.
Since it was formed in 2005, the Bowser Senior Housing Society has operated as an independent society, with the view of creating 36 independent-supportive housing units that are close to local amenities.
The two parcels, located behind the new library, fit this bill nicely, she said.
The regional district had originally applied to have the two lots provided by the province as a free Crown grant, with part of the two lots along the road frontage being designated for the housing project and another part being reserved for a modular wastewater treatment plant.
However, while the province supported the idea, they were unable to support an unconditional free Crown grant while the projects were of such a conceptual nature. Instead, they proposed a 20-year nominal rent tenure, a proposal the RDN accepted.
Getting land within the boundaries of the Bowser village centre is a major step forward in the process, but even bigger steps remain before there will be any sod turned at the site.
“The next step is fundraising,” Barton said. “In the first phase, our business plan is looking at building 18 units, which have been roughly esimated to cost $2.6 million.”
The group plans to obtain a mortgage and to seek matching grants and other methods to get that money.
Because of the big task ahead of the group, Barton had no firm timeline for construction to begin.
“The first step was to get access to the land,” she said. “Now we have to get busy fundraising.”