|The now-weedy city-owned property known as Central Green will be the site of a new affordable housing project.
Families desperate for an affordable home in Kelowna can look forward to subsidized apartment living on the old Kelowna Secondary School site.
By next year, heavy machines should start tearing up turf that has sat fallow for a decade on the 13-acre lot at Richter and Harvey Avenue. The province and City of Kelowna have agreed to build an apartment block with up to 90 suites on the east side of Chapman Place for families and people with low to moderate incomes.
The B.C. Housing Ministry will issue a call by late September for bids from non-profit groups to construct the two-to-four-storey building. The city's vision is a family-oriented development with two- or three-bedroom apartments, said Graham Hood, strategic development land manager.
The city is providing just under an acre worth close to $1 million in a 60-year lease for a dollar. The province is contributing money either toward the construction or to subsidize the rent once it's built. The budget has not been finalized because the project is in its early stages.
"The province will work with the city and project partners to determine funding details once the project moves into the later stages of development," said a news release from B.C. Housing.
The city bought the property for $5 million from the school district in 2002 and unveiled an ambitious plan to develop an array of high-density, multi-family homes. Fifteen per cent of the suites built on the Central Green site had to be affordable so people earning modest incomes could rent below-market apartments and live near downtown.
Developers stayed away, in part because the city included conditions they felt made profits unattainable. Now, with two other buildings in the negotiation stage, that 15-per-cent quota appears within reach.
The Karis Support Society is poised to buy a lot behind Marshal Street between Buckland and Rowcliffe avenues for $1.4 million.
The faith-based organization wants to erect subsidized housing for marginalized women, but first must settle variances like parking with the city.
If the projects goes ahead, the buildings will anchor a major housing development on Central Green that could eventually encompass three towers and several mid-size blocks surrounding a five-acre park, retail space and commercial areas.
Coun. Luke Stack convinced the city to set aside the three lots for affordable housing to make them more attractive to non-profit organizations. He's also executive director of his own non-profit housing organization - the Society of Hope.
"When the request for proposals comes out, we'll review it with the board of directors. If they felt it aligned with our mission statement, we probably would be interested (in bidding)," he said.
"We are actively looking for opportunities to grow our (stock)."
Groups that might also be interested are NOW Canada, the Columbus Centennial Housing Society, the Evangel Housing Society and others.
Affordable rents are said to amount to no more than one-third of a family's gross income. Despite a vacancy rate of about three per cent in Kelowna, demand for below-market housing remains high.
High rents have come down since the market crash of 2008, but the low end has stayed the same - roughly $750 for a one-bedroom apartment and $900 for a two-bedroom.
"It's very hard," said Stack. "A lot of people are really under the gun to pay the rent and meet their household needs. It's really sad and challenging.
"For people whose incomes haven't gone up these past few years, they're still feeling the pinch."
It's too early to say what the rents will be at 1700 Chapman Place. Rates depend on what gets built on site and the cost of construction, Hood said.
The successful developer will be announced in late fall. Construction should start in 2014 and finish within a year.