Future affordable housing resident Leanne Fraser, left, smiles beside Graham Morry, executive director for the Nanaimo Association for Community Living, during a groundbreaking ceremony at 3425 Uplands Dr. on July 18. The site will become the home of NACL’s affordable townhouse project, which will provide homes to low-income individuals and people with developmental disabilities. (Nicholas Pescod/NEWS BULLETIN)

Affordable housing project for people with disabilities breaks ground in Nanaimo

Uplands Drive project expected to be completed by summer 2020

A Nanaimo housing project offering affordable accommodation, including to people with developmental disabilities, is finally becoming a reality.

Work has begun on a 28-unit townhouse development by the Nanaimo Association for Community Living, which once completed, will provide 12 accessible rental homes to people with developmental disabilities and 14 one-bedroom homes to people with low incomes.

There will also be a group kitchen, dining room, social lounge and a live-in manager’s suite.

The project has an estimated value of $5 million according to the city’s website and construction is expected to be completed by summer 2020. NACL will be managing the affordable housing site, which already has a waiting list for tenants.

On Thursday, a ceremony was held at the Uplands Drive property, where the provincial government announced a $4.9-million contribution toward the project.

Sheila Malcolmson, Nanaimo MLA, told a crowd of roughly 30 people, which included politicians and potential residents, that NACL’s development represents an opportunity for the community.

“It is such an opportunity for Nanaimo and for residents of Nanaimo and especially for people who have had a hard time finding a good place to live in our community,” she said.

Plans for a residential development that could offer affordable housing to those with developmental disabilities were first brought forward by the Nanaimo Association for Community Living back in 2007.

The non-profit organization, which supports people with developmental disabilities, purchased the 6,475-square-metre property in 2012 and after various adjustments to their proposal, the property was rezoned in 2016.

Graham Morry, executive director for the Nanaimo Association for Community Living, told the News Bulletin that after 12 years, he’s pleased to see shovels in the ground.

“There are people and families who have been waiting for a long time for this moment,” he said. “This file has been on my desk weekly for the last 12 years. It has taken a hell of a lot of people to move it forward. A lot of tenacity and a lot of love, really,” he said.

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NACL has been ready to build for years, according to Morry, who said the reason for the long delay is simply due to a lack of money.

“Everything takes time. We bought the property but zoning takes a long time,” he said. “We were poised and waiting for money. Frankly, we needed money from the government in order to be able to do it. We are financing part of it on our own dime but we needed capital help to make it work.”

In 2016, the previous provincial government, through B.C. Housing, provided the non-profit organization with $2.6 million for the project. Malcolmson told the News Bulletin the money from the province is new money and not funding that was previously announced.

“It is my understanding that although there was money committed under the previous provincial government, it wasn’t sufficient in order for NACL to get the financing that they needed and it wasn’t sufficient to bring the rents down to what we would call an affordable level,” she said, adding that the $4.9 million provided “brings the rents down” to $550 a month for the 12 accessible units.

RELATED: Nanaimo affordable housing organizations receive financial boost

RELATED: New supportive housing model pitched for Nanaimo’s Uplands Drive

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