The Port Alberni chapter of the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) is planning to develop some affordable housing on city-owned land in Port Alberni’s Uptown.
Dion White, project lead with New Commons Development, appeared before city council during a meeting on Monday, June 8 to provide a project summary. New Commons is a non-profit real estate developer that works with community non-profits to develop affordable housing. In this case, they have partnered with CMHA to propose a mixed use development on a city-owned site on Second Avenue, between Angus and Argyle Streets.
The development will feature commercial and office space, as well as mixed-market residential rentals. Some of this will be affordable housing.
“CMHA is interested in incorporating, and we are exploring, opportunities to incorporate some level of assistance or support for vulnerable individuals who may be transitioning to more permanent and long-term forms of independent housing, if possible,” White said on Monday.
The CMHA is currently looking for potential funding partners for the project. They have already received $150,000 in funding from various sources to complete the feasibility portion of the project. At this point, the city has not contributed any funding.
The site on Second Avenue consists of three legal parcels and around 13,500 square feet of land. White admitted that it is “not a huge site,” but it is located close to services and amenities in the Uptown area.
“This is municipally owned land,” White added. “We want to make sure that any proposal we bring forward for that site is making appropriate and best use of that land.”
In April, CMHA approached the city with interest in owning or renting the piece of city-owned property on Second Avenue in order to build a four- or five-storey building with 30 to 40 affordable rental housing units. They were looking for conditional interest from the city in making the site available. The city has not decided whether the land will be sold or leased.
CMHA will be in the feasibility process of development for another eight to 10 weeks, after which a full development plan and business proposal will be made based on those results. CMHA will return to council at a later date with these plans.
Mayor Sharie Minions said on Monday that she was “excited” to see CMHA making so much progress with the development.
“I think most people recognize that housing and supportive services are probably the biggest issue for our community right now,” she said.
“I think this is a really exciting project,” agreed Councillor Ron Paulson. “You’ve proven to be great citizens of our community. I wish you all the best of luck as you go through this planning process.”