A parcel of land on 13th St, next to Isabella Dicken Elementary School, has been earmarked for North End Court, a 49-unit development. Source: Zeidler/City of Fernie documents

OPINION: Affordable housing project approval the right decision for Fernie

Fernie Family Housing Society’s North End Court development to help address housing crisis

There is a desperate need for affordable housing in Fernie.

We’ve heard time and time again how difficult it is for businesses to attract and retain staff because of the housing crisis, while our own friends and family struggle to find a place to live.

Rentals posted to Facebook are snapped up in minutes and houses are sold overnight as demand continues to far outweigh supply.

Since moving to Fernie in October 2017, I’ve been fortunate when it comes to finding housing and have never been forced to stay in temporary accommodation for longer than a few nights.

I consider myself at an advantage having year-round employment and a reliable income, as well as a partner, which means I have someone to split the rent with. I couldn’t afford to live in my current home if that wasn’t the case.

Many others aren’t so lucky, which is why projects such as the one proposed by the Fernie Family Housing Society are so important to the future of this community.

LOOK BACK: Fernie affordable housing project starting to take shape

North End Court is a mixed affordable housing development that will provide 49 units for families, singles, seniors and people with disabilities on incomes ranging from $30,000 to $68,000 a year.

Fernie has a shockingly low vacancy rate of 0.5 per cent and when FFHS opens North End Court in early 2021, they will go some way towards addressing Fernie’s desperate housing need.

Sitting in Monday’s public hearing for proposed Official Community Plan and zoning amendments for North End Court, I was concerned that perhaps this project would not succeed as person after person stepped up to the lectern to raise concerns about the location and its potential to hinder an expansion of Isabella Dicken Elementary School (IDES).

Fortunately, Fernie council recognized that responsibility for planning for an expansion of IDES lies with the school district and Province – not FFHS – and approved the amendments as per City staff’s recommendation.

LOOK BACK: Fernie affordable housing project gets green light

This does not take away from the very valid concerns presented at the hearing.

We’ve long awaited an announcement from the Province for a replacement school in Fernie as IDES struggles with overcrowding. This week’s news that a business case is being prepared is a step in the right direction.

However, it was disappointing not to see any members of the Southeast Kootenay School District at Monday’s public hearing considering FFHS and CitySpaces’ willingness to work with them, and the very apparent concern in the community.

Congratulations to FFHS and CitySpaces on clearing this latest hurdle. I look forward to seeing this important development take shape.

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About 60 people attended Monday’s public hearing for the Fernie Family Housing Society’s affordable housing project. Kimberley Vlasic/The Free Press

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