Artist renderings show what a proposed 100-unit affordable rental building would look like, along King George Boulevard in Newton. (Photo: surrey.ca)

Newton

Surrey council unanimously approves ‘deeply’ affordable housing project

Options Community Services hopes council will waive $1.5 million in development fees for the project

A 100-unit “deeply” affordable housing project that will serve vulnerable Surrey residents has received the green light from city council.

On Monday (July 8), Surrey council voted unanimously to give the project third reading.

“We are so excited because it’s been a long journey to get here,” said Janice Boyle, director of development for Options Community Services, noting the project has been in the works for four years.

It’s the largest project the non-profit society has ever taken on, although it runs a plethora of services for vulnerable populations, including shelters, crisis lines, counselling support, as well as transition houses for abused women and their children.

Boyle told council that the social housing wait list in Surrey alone is about 2,400 people right now.

“That gives you an idea of how great the housing needs are,” she said, noting many of the units will be “deeply affordable.”

Rents start as low as $375 a month for a one-bedroom, and range from there, with 30 market rental units in the mix.

Boyle told the Now-Leader she hopes the project can be replicated throughout the city to address the housing crisis in Surrey, and beyond.

“We’re only able to house about 20 per cent of our shelter clients,” she explained. “We’re turning away 160 people a month because we’re full. The problem isn’t necessarily that we need more shelter and transitional beds – although that would help – but because there’s such a shortage of safe and affordable housing, people that are ready to be independent again can’t find anywhere to go.”

And that goes for all of their clients along the spectrum, from single parents to immigrants to seniors, she noted.

“The 100 units are going to fill up fast, I imagine. But we have to start somewhere.”

Planned is a nearly 95,000-square-foot rental apartment building at 8135, 8123 and 8109 King George Boulevard. It can move ahead now that city council has given its blessing to the rezoning application and amendments to the Official Community Plan.

The community services in the building would be located at ground level, with office space on the second floor and the majority of residential units on floors three through six. The services are to include mental health outreach; supports for those with developmental disability; housing support; domestic violence intervention; and early years programs.

The development is to be partially funded by both Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) and BC Housing, with CMHC providing grant funds and long-term mortgage financing and BC Housing providing a “large capital grant.”

It’s expected the project would be ready for occupancy by the end of 2022.

homelessphoto

(Artist renderings show what the 100-unit affordable rental building would look like, along King George Boulevard in Newton. Photo: surrey.ca)

Now that city council has given the project the green light, Boyle hopes Surrey will waive Development Cost Charges for the project, as it does for BC Housing projects.

“For this project, it’s approximately $1.5 million. So it’s significant.”

“We’ve been attempting so far unsuccessfully to do a delegation in front of city council, to ask them to consider adopting a policy similar to one Langley just did, where they waive DCCs for affordable housing projects. We’re one of the few municipalities who don’t have it,” Boyle told the Now-Leader.

“They do waive the fees for BC Housing projects on city land. It just seems counter intuitive that when the charity is bringing the land to the table, the fees still apply,” she added. “It seems to be a no-brainer that you’d treat non-profit and charities differently than private developers. We’re not making any money off of this.”

Councillor Brenda Locke suggested it’s unlikely the city would waive the fees.

“Surrey, traditionally does not waive DCCs,” Locke told the Now-Leader, “and I have talked to staff about that but it’s not something we do in Surrey. There are other things we might be able to do to help them, just even expediting the project makes a big difference and can help them save costs. There might be other ways of helping them but at this point I don’t know the city has ever looked at that.”

Having said that, Locke lauded the project and said Options “deserves kudos for taking on something as unique as this.”

“We need to be doing more of that kind of housing in Surrey,” she said. “I’m really pleased to see it happening, especially that it’s going to be providing both market housing and more affordable housing, especially for single moms. That’s an important project for sure. They’re going to have the opportunity to have some of their daycare stuff in there. I think it’s going to be a really nice facility that’s going to really demonstrate how that kind of mixed housing can work.”

homelessphoto

(Artist renderings show what the 100-unit affordable rental building would look like, along King George Boulevard in Newton. Photo: surrey.ca)

SEE ALSO: New rental building in Surrey sees nearly 2,000 applicants for 97 units

SEE MORE: Surrey’s newest purpose-built rental building opens in City Centre

The City of Surrey went several decades with no purpose-built rental housing being constructed.

In recent years, a handful of developments have been approved and opened that have rental components, including an affordable rental building built by Semiahmoo House that opened in South Surrey in 2016, the 97-unit “Bristol” building in Cloverdale what opened in 2017 and last November, the 146-unit “Fusion” building opened in City Centre.

And a project being built at 5750 Panorama Drive includes a rental component.

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