MacDonald Hagarty Architects Ltd.
WFC is a non-profit society whose mandate is to provide services and supports to the urban Aboriginal population in the Comox Valley Regional District. WFC currently owns their building located at 1625 McPhee Avenue where they deliver many programs, including but not limited to legal support services, emergency food and medical programs, training and learning programs, homelessness and poverty outreach work, supports for children in care, and a variety of multi-generational programming. In addition to their extensive outreach services, WFC operates a daycare that follows the curriculum of the Aboriginal Head Start Program.
WFC has demonstrated success with their services and supports and is a strong advocate for ending homelessness in the Comox Valley. WFC is a leading member of the Comox Valley Coalition to End Homelessness and this proposed development is included as an action in the Comox Valley Five-Year Plan to End Homelessness. The proposed development will be constructed on an under-utilized parking area that is adjacent to the existing WFC building at 17th & McPhee Avenue. Recognizing the Comox Valley’s ongoing need for low-income seniors housing, WFC is proposing a new 5-storey housing development that will provide 40 affordable rental units for Indigenous Elders and singles. This project presents a creative solution to the ever-growing challenge of affordable housing in Courtenay.
Comox Valley Record - SCOTT STANFIELD - Jan. 21, 2021 2:30 p.m.
The Wachiay Friendship Centre hopes to convert its parking lot into a building with living units and a cultural gathering space. Scott Stanfield photo
The Wachiay Friendship Centre hopes to turn its parking lot at 17th and McPhee into a five-storey wood frame building with 40 living units. Pending the outcome of an application to BC Housing, the suites will be studio and one-bedroom units.
Wachiay has applied for assistance from a Community Housing Fund, which sets a rent structure. Twenty per cent of units would be at the income assistance shelter rate of $375 for a single, 50 per cent would be rent geared to income (subsidized rent), and 30 per cent would be at the low end of market.
“If we’re successful with it, we’re hoping to provide some of the one bedroom accessible units at shelter rate,” said Roger Kishi, Wachiay’s program co-ordinator of homeless and housing programs. “It’s still very early going. We’re hopeful that we’ll be successful.”
M’akola Development Services — Wachiay’s development consultant — has applied to the City of Courtenay for rezoning at 1679 McPhee Ave. “I think a clear strength of the project is its proximity to the Friendship Centre, so that tenants will be able to access the existing programs and services that Wachiay offers the community, while providing safe, affordable, and high-quality housing,” said Lindsay Monk, manager of development at M’akola.
Kishi notes that a Regional Housing Needs Assessment and the provincial Rental Housing Index illustrates the need for hundreds of living units in the community.
“It’s nice to see all this market rental housing being built in the Comox Valley, but they’re not very affordable,” Kishi said, noting market rents for studios can run as high as $1,100 per month.
Along with living units, the building would also contain an indoor cultural gathering space for Indigenous Elders and singles.
“We think it would be an integral part of the building,” Kishi said.
Besides BC Housing, Wachiay and M’akola are also pursuing funding through the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.
As reported in the Comox Valley Record
CVRD to Support Development of Housing Units for Indigenous Elders and Singles
September 17, 2021
The Comox Valley Regional District (CVRD) has provided $70,000 in funding to the Wachiay Friendship Centre in support of an indigenous affordable housing project.
The contribution from the CVRD’s Homelessness Supports Service will assist in the development of 24 -40 studio and one bedroom units for Indigenous elders and singles located at 17th Street and McPhee Avenue in Courtenay.
Photo Caption: Monica Goodheart- Wachiay President with CVRD Board Chair Ketler and Roger Kishi – Program Coordinator for Homeless and Housing Programs.
“The CVRD is committed to reconciliation with First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples in our community,” said Jesse Ketler, Chair of the CVRD Board. “We know that actions speak louder than words and we are dedicated to supporting initiatives that make a real and tangible difference in the lives of indigenous peoples in the Comox Valley. We are proud and honoured to be a part of this important community project.”
The Wachiay Friendship Centre serves more than 7,000 urban dwelling and off-reserve Indigenous people living in the Comox Valley Region. This affordable housing project is just one of the many programs and services provided to Indigenous peoples living from Black Creek in the north through to Fanny Bay in the south.
“Wachiay is committed to Indigenous housing for the Comox Valley,” said Monica Goodheart- Wachiay President. “Huy ch q’u, Wachiay is grateful for the funding from the CVRD for this much needed project in our community.”
Indigenous relations is a key driver of the CVRD and in 2019 the board adopted a framework which aims to deliver core services with an Indigenous relations lens and promote greater cultural awareness. A key objective is to build capacity of all elected officials and staff to be engaged in collaborative work with Indigenous communities and people. For more information visit: www.comoxvalleyrd.ca/indigenousrelations
The Comox Valley Regional District is a federation of three electoral areas and three municipalities providing sustainable services for residents and visitors to the area. The members of the regional district work collaboratively on services for the benefit of the diverse urban and rural areas of the Comox Valley.
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General Manager of Planning and Development Services
Wachiay planning next steps for housing project in Courtenay
BC Housing funding was approved for the 40-unit proposal during the spring
After a grant application was approved this spring, Wachiay Friendship Centre is waiting to clear the next hurdle for its planned housing project.
The organization had applied to BC Housing for funding from its Community Housing Fund and learned it was successful in early June.
“We thought that our application was really strong,” said Roger Kishi, Wachiay program co-ordinator of homeless and housing programs.
Jamie Begin, Lindsay Monk, Maris MacDonald, Monica Goodheart and Roger Kishi show off plans for Wachiay Friendship Centre’s housing project during an open house in July. Photo by Mike Chouinard
Another local project, a project by the Comox Valley Affordable Housing Society, was also approved for Comox. Many others, including ones in this area, were not. Kishi knows of seven here and 49 on Vancouver Island.
“There were a number of applications,” he said.
In July, Wachiay held an open house at the site, which currently functions as its parking lot on McPhee Avenue. There, they made plans available for the public to see the proposed five-storey building that will have 40 units.
The next step is to get the zoning in place for the project, and the consultants from M’akola Development Services have applied to the City of Courtenay. The city confirmed the project application is currently being reviewed by staff before the bylaw can proceed. The planning department is waiting for a submission in response to a letter sent to the applicant at the end of April. Once it gets a response, staff will prepare a report for council on the application.
The overall plan is to change the use designation from industrial to multi-residential and rezone the site from Industrial Two Zone (I-2) to a new Comprehensive Development Zone that is site-specific for the multi-residential development and indoor cultural gathering space.
As is the case in many places, the demand is high for affordable housing, says Kishi. While there is construction taking place in the Comox Valley, it is not necessarily helping many feeling the housing pinch most severely.
“Although there is a lot of construction, these are private market rentals,” he said.
For the Wachiay housing project, 20 per cent will be set at $375, or the income assistance shelter rate for a unit, 30 per cent at the low end of market value and half geared to income through subsidized rent.
Still, more homes are needed, Kishi said, adding that even buildings with longstanding rents can go up dramatically once a tenant leaves.
“As units turn over, the rents are going up,” he said. “It’s happening globally.”
Kishi said the proponents have been in contact with local and provincial government officials lately, and as to the amount of BC Housing funding they can expect, he expects they could find out about a project manager this month so they can begin work on the next phase.
(The article has been changed to correct a dollar amount.)
Mail-Out Feedback Responses
Q: What are the parking requirements for a 40-unit building?
A: The parking requirements of this building have not yet been determined. We are going through a comprehensive rezoning process with the City of Courtenay, which will determine the parking requirements for this proposed development.
Q: Where will the residents park their vehicles?
A: Residents will be able to park their vehicles on-site, in the 10 available parking spaces included in the development proposal. Additionally, the Wachiay Friendship Centre lot is only used by staff and visitors to the centre during the day and would be open to tenants at night. There is also access to street parking along McPhee Ave, 16th Ave and 17th Ave. The building is near public transit, services and amenities and residents will have access to the Wachiay Friendship Centre shuttle buses. We anticipate relatively low vehicle ownership rate amongst future tenants based on experience with previous similar projects. There will also be access to bike and scooter parking.
Q: Where will the current users of the parking lot park once the site starts to be developed?
A: Current users will be able to access Wachiay’s other parking lot which will not be affected as part of this development. We will be preparing a parking plan to ensure that current staff and daycare users have access to parking and safe drop-offs. We will also create a parking plan for the construction period to address increases in vehicle traffic immediately around the site.
Q: How will the building affect traffic in the area?
A: It is unlikely that the building will increase traffic in the neighbourhood due to low anticipated vehicle ownership among the senior residents. We do not anticipate significant increases in vehicle parking in the area or extensive increases in vehicle traffic through the area as a result of this building. We will be conducting a traffic assessment as part of the rezoning process.
Q: Will there be fencing surrounding the property?
A: There will be fencing between the parking lot and the west property line, separating the development from its neighbour. There will be privacy screens and landscaping separating the sidewalk and the patios along 17th Street.
Q: Will there be any green space or trees planted as part of this development?
A: Yes, this is currently being designed. Although designs are not yet finalized, there will be trees, landscaped green space and gardens included as part of this development. There will also be outdoor seating areas and pathways, providing outdoor space for tenants to enjoy.
Q: How will the development fit into the neighbourhood’s heritage neighbourhood status?
A: The site is not a part of the “40 Houses” Neighbourhood but is located across the street from it. The development will seek to honour the Indigenous heritage and history of the region, while also maintaining a form and character that complement the existing neighbourhood.
Q: Will the Individuals living in this building be Indigenous?
A: Yes. Indigenous Elders and Indigenous individuals are the priority tenant group.
Q: Will there be 24/hour supervision?
A: No. This is an independent affordable rental building, not supportive housing, or assisted living. There will be access to support services for residents through the Wachiay Friendship Centre. Residents in the neighbourhood will experience heightened safety due to the increased outdoor lighting and number of “eyes on the street” between the “40 Houses” community and the industrial area along McPhee.
Q: How will a 5-storey building fit into the existing neighbourhood?
A: This will be a new housing type for this neighbourhood, but to effectively address the need and demand for affordable housing in Courtenay we are proposing a denser building form. The development is in a “Neighbourhood Hub” growth node as per the City of Courtenay’s Official Community Plan. As such, it is a priority for redevelopment. Although 5-stories will be a new housing type for the neighbourhood, it is being designed to complement the neighbourhood and provide 100% affordable rental housing. This proposed development will replace a concrete parking lot with a thoughtfully landscaped, and beautifully designed housing option for seniors and single individuals.