The new supportive housing complex on Hightide Avenue in Sechelt will be move-in ready later this month, providing homes for 40 people – all from the Sunshine Coast.
“Places like this have a huge impact on our communities. Through these homes people will have the dignity of a roof, a door, a bedroom – all the facilities they’ll need,” said Powell River-Sunshine Coast MLA Nicholas Simons at an April 5 preview of the facility. “They’ll also have the care and support of people who will be working with them, and we all know at some times in our life we could use that support.”
Simons said years of strong local advocacy is now paying off with 80 of the 2,000 supportive housing units promised by the NDP government slated for the Coast.
The project is a partnership between BC Housing, which owns the land, Vancouver Coastal Health and RainCity Housing, which will manage the building and coordinate the support services.
Isaac Malmgren, RainCity’s associate director, said the organization has been impressed by the level of support in Sechelt.
“There’s something really unique about our relationship with the Sunshine Coast and our level of support and welcome that we’ve received in every community that we’ve worked in,” he said.
Sechelt Mayor Darnelda Siegers also praised the community partners who’ve been working on the project and said the shíshálh Nation, which wasn’t able to send a representative to last Friday’s event, has an important connection to the site.
“When they started working on the site they had some archeological studies done, and they found some significant artifacts... I’m told it was probably the site of a village at one point and there will be some further work done by the shíshálh Nation to shows those [finds] to the community.”
Joel Holloway of Metric Modular, who built the housing with local contractor Spani Developments, also mentioned the shíshálh Nation’s archeological work “that ensured the archeological history of this site could be both respected and preserved while we completed a building on an aggressive schedule. It was a partnership that was essential to getting us where we are today.”
He also said the project has supported local jobs and more than 100 jobs at the company’s factory in the Fraser Valley.
During a brief tour of the building’s ground floor, Nick Gaskin, one of the local managers for RainCity Housing, said there were more than 70 applications for units in the building, and 39 of the people who will soon move in are from Sechelt and one is from Halfmoon Bay.
“One of the highlights of my career was being able to say to people who’d been outside for three, four, five, six years on the Sunshine Coast, ‘You have a home in a few weeks,’” Gaskin said.
Gaskin said the applicants from the Gibsons area will be considered for the project the Town, BC Housing, and RainCity announced on March 8, which would see the old RCMP detachment on School Road converted to 40 units of supportive housing that will likely be very similar to the Sechelt development.
“We often hear the rhetoric when we open these buildings that people are going to come from outside the town, but that’s not what RainCity does and that’s not what BC Housing does when we open buildings. We open buildings that house people in that community,” Gaskin told the people on the tour.
“I hope this is a great example to the community that there’s 40 residents of Sechelt that were already here, moving into this building which is going to create a safer community for all of us and a safer community for them.”
All 40 units will be fully furnished, with a kitchenette and bathroom and the four on the ground floor are fully accessible.
The building also has a communal kitchen, lounge area and offices for the support staff, who will be on site 24/7.
Gaskin also said under the supportive housing model, residents are considered long-term tenants.
“Folks can stay here for as long as they need to – it’s their permanent home and they can stay here for the rest of their lives if they want,” said Gaskin, who added that RainCity’s hope is that with the supports some residents will eventually be in a position that they’re able to move into other housing in the community.
Public consultations on the Gibsons project started last week with “small group community discussions” in the lead-up to a public open house to be scheduled in May. The project will also need to pass through the Town’s rezoning process.