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.
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.