The Ruth and Naomi’s community garden site may become the location for a new seniors’ housing facility downtown.

Downtown Chilliwack could see seniors’ housing built at Paramount site

CCS is seeking BC Housing’s ok for rental housing for seniors with low to moderate incomes

Downtown Chilliwack could see a new affordable housing project for seniors rising out of the ashes of the old Paramount Theatre location.

Chilliwack Community Services is proposing to build and run the 44-unit “Paramount Project” on city-owned properties at 46183 and 46187 Yale Road.

“We want to be an active part of the revitalization of downtown, and we want to honour the Paramount site with this project,” said Diane Janzen, executive director of Chilliwack Community Services (CCS), about Paramount Project.

Affordable housing for seniors 55 and over, is something desperately needed, their research has shown.

“It’s becoming a significant issue,” Janzen underlined.

Rents in the new facility would be geared to low- and moderate- income seniors who can live independently.

“This could make a huge difference in the lives of seniors living on fixed incomes.”

Most elder renters are paying “a lot” more than 30 per of their income on skyrocketing rental costs, she said, and research has shown that prevention is key.

CCS is in the midst of responding to a BC Housing Request for Proposals to create new rental housing for 55+ under the Building BC Community Housing Fund.

The recently unveiled plans for the Agra Bros. redevelopment project across the street would be a perfect fit with a proposed seniors’ housing facility, Janzen said.

“It will be a game-changer,” she said.

Downtown is a “natural” location for this type of housing run by CCS since the organization itself has been headquartered there for decades already, with senior-focused services like Meals on Wheels, Better At Home, and Community Drivers.

“We live and love downtown but we’ve also seen the concerning social circumstances,” Janzen told The Progress. “With all the projects coming online, it dovetails nicely to focus on the community’s elders.”

The much-loved history of the now demolished Paramount Theatre might even be kept alive in the new seniors’ housing project if they find a way to incorporate the old art-deco sign that was stashed away, but that is just an idea at this point.

If the CCS “Paramount Project” proposal is ultimately successful in securing BC Housing approval, the City of Chilliwack will provide the two properties on Yale road in support of the project. Council will vote on the rezoning after the public hearing on Aug. 7.

“The provision of a site is one way municipalities often partner with the province on housing initiatives,” according to the City of Chilliwack news release last week.

Rezoning the properties in advance of the September 17 RFP closing date is being eyed as a way to help show support for the project and create increased certainty.

“Certainty over land use is considered an important factor in BC Housing’s decision to invest in affordable housing in a community,” said the city release.

Janzen said the city leadership and vision on this file has been crucial to getting the proposal to this point.

“We have benefited from how proactive they have been,” said Janzen.

City of Chilliwack’s 2016 Homelessness Action Plan pinpointed the urgent need for an boost in the affordable housing supply, right across the housing continuum to meet the needs of the community, but especially for low-income seniors.

CCS plans to engage neighbours before the public hearing next month. As part of the process, a Good Neighbour Agreement will be created with CCS specific to the project.

If the rezoning is approved by council, the project will still be contingent on funding and an operating agreement between BC Housing and CCS. The decision will be made by BC Housing officials after the RFP closing date of Sept. 17. According to the RFP, the successful proponent will have a 60-year operating agreement with BC Housing for the management of all 44 units in the development.


@CHWKjourno
jfeinberg@theprogress.com

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