Proponents met with neighbourhood residents Thursday at the first open house for a green multi-family housing project on Maitland Street.                                 MIKE YOUDS PHOTO

Proponents met with neighbourhood residents Thursday at the first open house for a green multi-family housing project on Maitland Street. MIKE YOUDS PHOTO

Green housing project sparks interest in Port Alberni

Maitland Street multi-family residence raises bar on affordability

BY MIKE YOUDS

Special to the News

An open house for a proposed energy-efficient, multi-family housing development on Maitland Street drew plenty of interest from neighbouring residents Thursday, July 12.

Alberni Valley Low Energy Housing Society (AVLEHS), a community-based group formed in 2010, wants to build affordable housing as well as market housing for families and seniors, employing the highest standard of energy efficiency to achieve economy.

The project is proposed for vacant property known as Diocesan Field off Maitland between Eighth and Ninth avenues, land belonging to the Catholic Church.

The diocese is a partner in the project.

READ: Low energy housing pitched for Port Alberni

About 40 people attended the open house at Echo Centre.

Architect David Simpson said the development could readily achieve “net zero” energy status by employing passive solar or other forms of energy generation.

Mayor Mike Ruttan, his wife Bonnie and Councillor Ron Paulson are among the board members of the AVLEHS, an initiative spearheaded in 2010 by a group of retired teachers who wanted to remain active in the community. Their first project was a retro-fit of the Highview Apartment Building, completed last year.

“It had started out that way — looking at the possibility of addressing environmental issues related to building through the retro-fit process,” Bonnie explained. As the board membership evolved, the focus shifted to designing housing for families and seniors.

She said they want to engage the community from day one and went door-to-door inviting neighbours to the initial consultation. Some neighbours initially expressed concern about potential loss of view but came to appreciate the benefits that the development could bring to the neighbourhood, she said.

“This is really helpful,” she said of input from nearby residents.

“We’re looking at coming back to the community at the next stage of the process.”

Still in its conceptual stage, the Maitland project is expected to take two years to develop.

Leah MacKenzie, chief financial officer with the Diocese of Victoria, said the project squares with the social justice values of the church.

“We don’t have a lot of cash but we certainly have the will,” MacKenzie said, noting that B.C. Housing permits charities to enter into long-term leases. As landowners, charities can leverage projects based on social priorities and community partnerships.

A supportive housing project and shelter, a separate development, is proposed by the Port Alberni Shelter Society on another parcel of the field belonging to Island Health.