Seventy people passed through the doors of the Fernie Family Centre in the first two hours of the February 5 community meeting, where the Fernie Family Housing Society provided an update on its affordable housing project. Kimberley Vlasic/The Free Press

Fernie affordable housing project starting to take shape

Fernie Family Housing Society reveals project design; aims to start construction in September

Builders are yet to break ground on an affordable housing project in Fernie but potential tenants are already lining up to move in.

There was a steady stream of people through the doors of the Fernie Family Centre during a community meeting hosted by the Fernie Family Housing Society on Tuesday, February 5.

They were eager to find out more about the project proposed by the non-profit organization to meet demand for affordable housing for single parent families, low income earners and people with disabilities.

LOOK BACK: Fernie Family Housing receives much needed funding for affordable housing

A 52,000 sq. ft. vacant parcel of land next to Tom Uphill Manor and Isabella Dicken Elementary School has been earmarked for the project, which will include 49 rental units in total and be partially funded by the Columbia Basin Trust and BC Housing.

“I think it will be an asset,” said Gwyn Symmons, project manager and principal of Vancouver-based consulting firm, CitySpaces.

“We’re working in a number of communities across B.C. and most communities do need affordable rental housing for a mix of housing incomes and housing types.

“I think Fernie is fortunate BC Housing and Columbia Basin Trust have come together on this. I think it’s an attractive project… and it will fit right in.”

Fernie Family Housing Society President Gayle Vallance said the City of Fernie has been very supportive of the project.

“…and tonight, we’ve had a lot of positive feedback from the community and I think quite a few people came tonight hoping to live there,” added Symmons.

The project design currently includes 35 apartments in a wood framed apartment building, which will be a mix of one-, two- and three-bedroom units.

There will be 14 townhouses with two to three bedrooms for low-to-middle income families, as well as indoor and outdoor common spaces, and parking stalls.

The development will require a rezoning, Official Community Plan amendment and subdivision of the lot.

Symmons said there is still some work to be done before construction can start but they hope to break ground in September.

Construction is expected to take 15 months with opening pegged for 2020.

“We’ve just come out today just with the plans very early on, we’ve got some tweaking to do, just to get some public input on it,” said Symmons.

“There’s 49 units and it’s got some nice features to it. It’s got four-story apartments, a mix of housing for singles, seniors, families, couples and the disabled… and townhouses along the streetfront.”

The budget for the project has not yet been finalized but about half of the cost is expected to be covered by CBT and BC Housing.

This will allow the Society to offer housing at a reduced rate, while rents will cover mortgage repayments. These will vary and are expected to be announced over the coming months.

Vallance said the Society will start accepting tenant applications once construction starts and there will likely be an income threshold.

“We’re hoping that maybe some of the seniors who have been here this evening are looking to move out of bigger homes and move into smaller apartments, and this will free up some of the bigger homes in Fernie for families,” she said.

“Fernie is not a big community but it’s a very popular community and housing is quite costly here,” added Symmons.

“This will really help particularly provide housing for people who live and work here.”

A name for the project is yet to be determined and the Society has been soliciting suggestions from both the committee, and community.

People who attended Tuesday’s meeting had a chance to vote the proposed names: North End Village, The Gardens Estate, Old Town Garden, Garden Grove and Northern Court.

For more information, contact the Fernie Family Housing Society at ffhs@telus.net.

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A 3D view of the apartment building, proposed as part of an affordable housing project in Fernie. Photo courtesy of FFHS/CitySpaces

People who attended the February 5 meeting had a chance to vote on suggested names for the project. Kimberley Vlasic/The Free Press

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