At its very core, the new 43-unit affordable housing project in Keremeos, Ambrosia, is a community project.
Over $150,000 in donations, most of which were anonymous, poured in to help fund the project. One-hundred-twenty-thousand of this was received from four donors.
Without these donations, according to Sarah Martin, executive director of the Lower Similkameen Community Services Society, the project may not have gone through.
This helped the society purchase the land, which allowed them to be eligible to apply for funding. Martin described this as immense community support.
On Monday March 9, two additional donations recently came in, which enabled the society to purchase the two lots next to the Ambrosia development, which will be used for future growth.
On the morning of Monday, March 9, the board of the Lower Similkameen Community Services Society, Keremeos Mayor Manfred Bauer, and Chief Keith Crow of the Lower Similkameen Indian Band broke ground on the development.
“We certainly appreciate the work that the Lower Similkameen Community Services Society has done, and the additional affordable housing units will be welcome,” said Bauer at the ground-breaking.
Construction is planned to start in the beginning of June, with completion of the development set for around August in 2021.
The project will not only provide housing for seniors, families and those with disabilities, but it is also expected to help attract more working professionals to the area and potentially remedy a local worker shortage.
The new complex could house up to 100 people or more.
“It’s really exciting, I can’t wait,” said Martin. “This team is an A team and we’re really confident that the building’s going to be really great, and progress is pretty much on schedule.”
Two months after first submitting their proposal in Sept. 2018, the society received an encouraging response from B.C. Housing indicating their support.
However, the journey leading up to placing the first shovel started long before this.
Martin explained that the need for affordable housing in Keremeos was identified internally, and in 2016 a contractor provided the housing society with a needs assessment.
The project will meet the needs of those on their waitlist for affordable housing, which Martin explained mostly consist of seniors and those with disabilities.
“But also in our capacity as an employer in the community, we realize that housing shortages affect our ability to fill employment positions across industries,” she said.
She added there aren’t many opportunities for highly-skilled employees to settle in the area, due to a lack of housing.
“When they are coming in from outside communities and they just see no rentals, if they do see a rental it’s off in a sub-standard housing (unit),” said Martin.
Communities outside Keremeos are excited about the project as well.
The Lower Similkameen Community Services Society received a letter of support from the parent society of Ashnola at The Crossing, an addictions treatment program for youth and young adults.
“They also encounter difficulties filling their skilled employment positions due to housing shortages,” Martin explained.
She believes they won’t have any trouble filling the units with working people.
“Because it’s a mixed-use, it is not just for the deep-subsidy folks, there will be people in there paying low end of market and these are going to be employees that also will spend dollars in the community.”
Along with housing future employees, Martin said they are building more than the mandated number of accessible units in the building. This, she said, will provide independence to those with disabilities.
Five of the 43 planned units will be handicap-focused and fully accessible.
Martin said the Village of Keremeos recently rejecting a request to partially waive development costs is not going to stop the project and is grateful for their partnership with not only the local government but also the Lower Similkameen Indian Band (LSIB) and the Province.
Ahead of the ground-breaking, four elders from the LSIB agreed to perform a blessing ceremony on the land.