An 80-unit project by Mamele'wat Qweesome/To'o Housing Society (MQHS) will be a very 'welcome' addition to Chilliwack

An 80-unit project by Mamele'wat Qweesome/To'o Housing Society (MQHS) will be a very 'welcome' addition to Chilliwack

Rezoning in Chilliwack a green light for affordable housing

It's full speed ahead for the 80-unit Urban Village affordable housing project on Yale Road, near the Vibe development.

It’s full speed ahead for the 80-unit Urban Village affordable housing project on Yale Road.

City council approved the rezoning bylaw and development variance permits on Tuesday.

Several councillors said the project by Mamele’wat Qweesome/To’o Housing Society (MQHS) will be a very “welcome” addition to Chilliwack, and will fulfill an urgent need for affordable housing.

“The need is growing exponentially, with the Fraser Valley reaching an all-time high in homelessness, or those at risk of being homeless,” said Margaret Pfoh, CEO of MQHS, at city hall Tuesday.

While the project won’t be able to solve the homelessness problem in Chilliwack on its own, she warned, it will definitely address some of the need.

Construction completion is projected for 2018.

Partnerships will be key.

“We’ll make sure it’s well-run and maintained to the highest standards,” said Pfoh, adding they have a solid track record in providing housing for the past 30 years in the Fraser Valley.

MQHS facilities follow the principles of crime prevention through environmental design, and they are already members of the Crime-Free Multi-Housing program.

Pfoh also was “extremely excited” to tell council and the audience that she had just received word from the provincial government that the Urban Village project had been green-lighted for funding from BC Housing.

Verbal confirmation came in by phone at the last minute, just as she was heading into the public hearing.

“If we are granted this rezoning, we will ensure it’s a safe, healthy, and innovative housing project,” said Pfoh.

The plan with the 80 units is to operate with a 60/40 split of market rentals to affordable housing units, with the ground-floor for commercial use.

Some will be marketed as rental units, while the balance will be affordable units, subsidized by the higher revenue rentals to be able to offer them at shelter rates for low-income families and singles.

The building will be located on Yale Road, between Airport and Parr Roads, and will be “fully inclusive” and serving a diverse clientele. It will be a facility that “celebrates indigenous culture, and welcomes all,” Pfoh said.

Council had nothing but kudos.

Coun. Jason Lum said he’s happy to hear it’s now marching decidedly forward, and had extremely high praise for the project presentation, saying it was the “best” he’d ever seen.

“The applicant came very prepared and they did their homework,” said Lum.

It can be a thorny issue when talking about affordable housing being introduced, and it speaks to the homework and preparations that were made before the council meeting.

“This project will be a welcome addition to City of Chilliwack. Let’s get going as soon as possible.”

Coun. Sue Attrill called MQHS “a class act” and is excited by the prospect.

Mayor Sharon Gaetz said she felt “very blessed that Chilliwack is the recipient of this project.”

It’s also “great news” that MQHS was granted BC Housing funding to bring the project to fruition.

Pfoh only found out the same day as the council meeting that MQHS was approved for funding grants from the Province.

Coun. Ken Popove said that although the project is still 1.5 years down the road, it’s still a most welcome addition, desperately needed to fill the need for affordable housing.

“I do congratulate them, and say let’s get ‘er done!”

The variances that passed were to increase building height from 15m to 21.5m and reduce the required off-street parking spaces from 105 to 91, since they’ll need less for affordable housing tenants. They also passed a rezoning bylaw to rezone the property from a GSM (Service Commercial – Industrial) Zone to a CD-15 (Comprehensive Development-15) Zone specifically to facilitate the development of 80 apartment units with 200m2 of ground-floor commercial uses.