Nanaimo MLA Sheila Malcolmson during a speaking engagement at 285 Rosehill St., the site of a 23-unit affordable housing project that will be owned and operated by Vancouver Island Mental Health Society. (Nicholas Pescod/News Bulletin)

Affordable project in Nanaimo will give residents a chance at independent living

Vancouver Island Mental Health Society’s 23-unit affordable housing building to open in October

An affordable housing project under construction near downtown will do good things for those who eventually live there, says Nanaimo’s MLA.

Construction is currently underway on a three-storey residential building at 285 Rosehill St., which will provide 23 studio units of affordable rental housing to individuals trying to gain independent living skills when it opens in October.

The building will be owned and managed by the Vancouver Island Mental Health Society, which will provide on-site support services to residents.

Four units will be available for people making less than $375 a month, 12 units will be for individuals earning around $540 a month and seven units will be reserved for those making roughly $800 a month, according to a press release from the province.

On Thursday morning, politicians and others involved with the affordable housing project gathered at the construction site where they spoke about the project’s importance to the community.

Nanaimo MLA Sheila Malcolmson called the project “special” because it is not only relatively close to downtown but because it provides meaningful housing to those with mental health and addiction issues.

“It’s going to change their lives,” Malcolmson said.

The province has kicked in $2.3 million from its community housing fund toward the project while the City of Nanaimo has provided $54,000 in municipal waivers to VIMHS.

Malcolmson said the province will contribute an additional $2.1 million, with the money being split between operating costs and construction funding. She said the provincial government is doing its best to get more affordable housing built in the community.

“For Nanaimo, after a really long time of under-investment … we’re feeling the lack of affordable housing, the lack of supports on the mental health and addiction side…” she said. “We’re trying, as the provincial government, as hard as we can to build those supports back up, but we’ve got a lot more work to do.”

Taryn O’Flanagan, executive director of Vancouver Island Mental Health Society, said there’s great need for this type of affordable housing in Nanaimo.

“Stable housing is vital and we have a lot of need for it here…” she said. “This is an opportunity for somebody to get into a brand-new, beautiful unit in their community, in their neighbourhood.”

Speaking to the News Bulletin afterward, Malcolmson said the project will have a positive impact and make a difference in the lives of those who eventually call the building home.

“This is a compassionate housing project that is specifically geared towards people that have been hard to house in the past and want to get over addiction and mental challenges,” she said. “We know that the building managers and the support system around them will work to ensure the residents have the best tenant experience that they can and I believe that will put the residents in a better situation to be better tenants for other landlords.” 
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An artist rendering of a three-storey 23-unit affordable housing project at 285 Rosehill St. (Low Hammond Rowe Architects)

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