Nanaimo non-profit buys city property for a dollar

NANAIMO – The Nanaimo Aboriginal Centre will purchase city property for a new affordable housing project.

The transfer of city land for an affordable housing project was critical, according to Nanaimo Aboriginal Centre executive director Chris Beaton, who was pleased and excited by the political decision to sell property on Bowen Road.

Nanaimo politicians agreed to sell 0.4 hectares on Bowen Road for a dollar to the Nanaimo Aboriginal Centre, which plans to build an estimated $5.6-million affordable housing project. Council also agreed at an open meeting Monday to a public hearing to remove a covenant on the title.

The land at 1406 Bowen Rd. was slated for one of five supportive housing complexes for the city’s homeless and will now be the site of a 25-unit project for families, elders and youth transitioning from being in care to independent living. Ownership of property was a requirement of B.C. Housing, considered the likely funder for the project, according to Beaton.

“Everything tells us that there’s a tremendous need for affordable housing in this city and in particular for the urban aboriginal community which is over represented in almost any issue related to poverty,” said Beaton.

Council was unanimous about selling the property and agreeing to enter into an option to purchase agreement that will allow the city to buy back the property for a dollar if construction doesn’t begin by April 4, 2019.

Coun. Wendy Pratt said the project targets aboriginal students who are coming from out of town and other communities and have struggled with getting the support they need for housing in Nanaimo – often leaving families behind. The project will allow them to bring their families with them and focus on the task at hand, which is getting a good education, she said.

Coun. Bill Yoachim called it a bold and just move and the right thing to do.

“I am proud to be part of a council that’s forward thinking, especially in the era of reconciliation,” he said.

The Nanaimo Aboriginal Centre will seek more than $4 million in capital from B.C. Housing, but does not plan to tap into ongoing subsidies or operating grants for support staff.

Beaton believes they can address the needs of tenants through collaboration with other non-profits.