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Supportive housing development sees first tenants inside

NANAIMO – Uplands Drive, a 33-unit supportive housing complex, is complete and now accepting new tenants.
A low-income housing project is complete and open to its first tenants. The Uplands Road facility caused controversy when it was announced by the provincial government.

A newly opened supportive housing complex won’t have the negative effect on the area that some imagine, according to Pacifica Housing executive director Karyn French.

The first tenants have moved into Uplands Walk, a multimillion-dollar, 33-unit supportive housing building in north Nanaimo.

It has been three years since the B.C. government first announced the site would be part of a $34-million strategy to house Nanaimo’s mentally ill and homeless population.

It was controversial then, even becoming an election issue in 2011 as groups like Concerned Citizens of Nanaimo debated the merits of housing the homeless in a residential neighbourhood. But French had sensed a turnaround last year when the project broke ground.

Today, she acknowledges there’s still apprehension and concern, including about property value and increased crime.

“We are seeing a little bit more negativity than I anticipated at this stage, but they [area residents] really have to see it and experience it,” said French.

“People imagine it to be a lot different than what it is. It really is just another apartment building.”

The Uplands Drive supportive housing apartments were finished in late November and won’t be completely full for another two or three months, according to French.

The building, which reportedly came under its $7.3-million construction budget, will cost new residents $435 a month for a self-contained bachelor studio. The building also has staff 24 hours a day, amenities like a bocce ball court and focuses on life-skill development.

It’s all aimed at preparing people should they be ready to move into a building without social supports.

B.C. Housing will hold an official opening this January, when it will announce the total cost of the project.