BY DUCK PATERSON
The ‘Heart on the Hill’ project is beginning to beat.
The Ladysmith Resources Centre Association’s four-storey, 36-unit housing complex is holding an open house this coming Saturday, March 25, and members of the public will finally get a look into what will become home to Ladysmith citizens who are in need of affordable housing.
The amenity has been in the works since 2015, and started to physically take shape when construction started two years ago, but the LRCA has been working with various partners for years to bring the housing needs of many in the area to a reality.
As a community housing fund project, the Heart on the Hill is a mixed-income rental building that will house individuals with a wide range of ages, incomes, and abilities. This ensures diversity and helps build community.
The LRCA bought the property on the corner of Third Avenue and High Street in 2018. The original owner was the Anglican Church of Canada and the property was home to St. John’s Church for 115 years until it was sold to the LRCA. The church closed its doors in 2016 and the building sat vacant for a couple more years.
Marsh Stevens, who was chairperson of the LRCA building committee in 2015, said the idea for a housing project started when a group of parents, led by Sandra Marquis, approached the LRCA about coming under the organization’s umbrella for the purpose of building housing for adults with developmental disabilities.
Discussions soon began with the trustee of Pat Edge’s estate on the use of her bequeathment to the LRCA to purchase property, with the trustee requesting that the project also include housing for seniors. B.C. Housing’s criteria also included families as a target population.
“This is where the concept of one-third, one-third, one-third was arrived at,” Marsh said.
The Heart on the Hill has five two-bedroom units, four studio apartments and 27 one-bedroom suites. Marquis, LRCA president, said rents range depending upon a person’s income. Deep subsidy units rent for $375 per month for someone on social assistance or persons with disability allowance, rent-geared-to-income units rent for 30 per cent of a person’s income, and low-end-of-market-value units rent between $1,350-1,600 per month.
All the living units are located on the second, third and fourth floors while the ground floor contains all the mechanical systems, storage for scooters and bicycles and a community meeting room with a commercial kitchen with a walk-in cooler. The community meeting area will be able to be rented when not in use by the LRCA.
The new building has 18 on-site parking stalls in its lot and the town granted the building 11 dedicated spots on Third Avenue.
Once up and running, the ongoing maintenance and management of the building is the responsibility of the resources centre. According to the LRCA website, the cost of the building and ongoing operational costs will impact the local resources centre.
“B.C. Housing mandates the project be operationally sustainable and financial reviews were held during the construction phase and housing will conduct annual financial reviews and periodically operational reviews,” the association noted.
B.C. Housing said the capital budget for the project is $14.1 million, including $3.8 million in provincial funding, $1.4 million in equity contributions from the LRCA and $8.9 million secured through a CMHC-insured mortgage. The province is also providing approximately $227,000 in annual operating funding.
Stevens said there were a few hiccups in recent years and differences in opinions on the use of the building.
“It is good to see things come full circle, with Sandra as president, and an excellent board in place,” he said. “I wish them well – they have a lot of work ahead of them.”
The open house Saturday is from noon-4 p.m.