Kevin Nicol of Richlane Builders, with the new four-storey, 67-unit building under construction in Chilliwack. The project is financed with a $11.8 million low-interest loan from CMHC’s Rental Construction Financing Initiative, under the National Housing Strategy, which supports the creation of affordable housing. (Jennifer Feinberg/ The Progress)

Kevin Nicol of Richlane Builders, with the new four-storey, 67-unit building under construction in Chilliwack. The project is financed with a $11.8 million low-interest loan from CMHC’s Rental Construction Financing Initiative, under the National Housing Strategy, which supports the creation of affordable housing. (Jennifer Feinberg/ The Progress)

Affordable housing in Chilliwack boosted by National Housing Strategy funds

A 67-rental unit building is going up on Webb Avenue in Chilliwack for middle-income families

A federal affordable housing program is bringing some much needed rental housing relief to Chilliwack.

A four-storey, 67-unit apartment complex is under construction by Richlane Builders.

“We’re very excited to be a part of CMHC’s Rental Construction Financing Initiative (RCFi), which promotes innovative and socially responsible housing options,” said Brian Burr, chief financial officer for Richlane Builders.

A one-bedroom bachelor suite in the new Webb Avenue apartments will start at $850 per month.

The builders qualified for a low-interest loan of $11.7 million over 10 years, to bring the project to fruition under the RCFi, which is part of the National Housing Strategy (NHS) program.

“We feel the development of purpose-built rental housing is a critical component to addressing the housing affordability crisis we face in our communities today,” Burr said.

A housing project like this, with affordable one- and two-bedroom units, would simply not have been possible under traditional financing options, and the flexibility offered by the RCFi program might afford the Richlane team opportunities to bring other similar projects to Chilliwack down the line, he hinted.

About a year ago they started the application process with CMHC.

“Here today, we are well underway in the construction process,” Burr said.

All of the rental rates will be “at or below 30 per cent of median income in the area,” which for Chilliwack is pegged at about $77,000 per household.

“We are very proud of what you are seeing here today, as well as those future opportunities,” Burr said.

READ MORE: Renters are really struggling

Jati Sidhu, MP for Mission-Matsqui-Fraser Canyon, made the construction and funding announcement on behalf of Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister of Families, Children and Social Development and the Minister responsible for Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), noting that Chilliwack’s population growth puts it in the top three in B.C., behind only Langley Township and Surrey.

“Chilliwack is a vibrant, thriving city,” Sidhu said. “Unfortunately, like many Canadian cities, the demand for housing has far outstripped the supply.”

Lack of affordable rental housing hurts growing communities.

“It threatens the well-being of middle class Canadians and their families. That’s why the Government of Canada is proud to support projects like the one we’re announcing today.”

The pressure is on to build affordable rentals in Chilliwack.

At least 25 units in the Webb project will be held at affordable rent levels for 21 years, according to the program materials.

The structure will be four storeys high with an underground parkade, and easy access to transit and amenities. The apartment complex will have energy-efficient features, and LED lighting.

The RCFi gives developers stable, predictable costs in the earliest stages of project development, and has garnered strong interest from developers since its launch in April 2017. It’s estimated that the program will create about 14,000 new rental units for middle-income Canadians across the country.

The Rental Construction Financing Initiative is one of many components of Canada’s first-ever National Housing Strategy. Chilliwack officials have been trying for years to get Chilliwack qualified to apply for funding under NHS to create more affordable housing stock, and now it’s happening.

Construction completion is targeted for December 2019.

READ MORE: Chilliwack qualifies for federal funding


@CHWKjourno
jfeinberg@theprogress.com

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