Local dignitaries gathered for the official ribbon-cutting at Darry’s Place, the new second-stage housing community in Courtenay.
The new 40-unit building provides second-stage housing for women and gender-diverse people leaving violence, including transgender women, two-spirit and non-binary people, along with their children. The family-oriented development has a mix of studio, one-, two-, three- and four-bedroom homes, including five wheelchair-accessible units. The project also includes a secure outdoor children’s play area.
Second-stage housing provides short-term accommodation with on-site supports for women and their dependent children leaving violence. Residents typically move into second-stage housing after a stay in a transition house (i.e Lilli House, in Courtenay) and then live in the units for six to 18 months before moving to more permanent housing.
“This project is a recognition and a sign of what a strong community should be,” said Minister of Housing, Ravi Kahlon, who was on hand for the ribbon-cutting. “When I had a chance to look through everyone who was involved in this… the city, the not-for-profits, the province… this is the kind of example we need in communities everywhere, and certainly we know that the need is great, especially coming out of the pandemic. We’ve seen a significant rise in domestic violence, and we know this kind of housing is needed everywhere in the province.”
Courtenay-Comox MLA Ronna-Rae Leonard took the time to recognize Comox Valley Transition Society (CVTS) executive director Heather Ney for all her work guiding this project to fruition.
“You are a model on how to do partnerships,” said Leonard. “You have been able to bring all the different players together, and weather a lot of storms. I so much appreciate that… and all of the different partners who came together to make this happen.”
The building will be managed by CVTS. The society will offer supports, such as life-skills training, crisis counselling and poverty-reduction services to women and children living in the homes. People are scheduled to start moving in early May 2023.
Rental rates will be calculated at 30 per cent of the residents’ income or at the provincial shelter rate for those who are receiving income or disability assistance.
“We do have people applying now. We haven’t selected our first tenant yet – we are just in that process now, but I am hoping that within a month, we will be having people move in,” she said.
Muchalat Construction, a local modular construction company, manufactured the units. The project is a partnership between the province, through BC Housing, the City of Courtenay, Comox Valley Transition Society, and Pacific Swell Developments.
“Thank you to Muchalat for their exceptional work and quality, and it’s a local company – architects were also local, so it has a real local feel,” said Ney.
The facility has been named Darry’s Place, in honour of Darry Estes, a long-time CVTS member and its former president.
“I really want to say how proud I think Darry would be of this moment,” said Neys.
The province, through BC Housing, invested approximately $17.2 million for the project through the Building BC: Women’s Transition Housing Fund, and will provide an annual subsidy of approximately $575,000.
The City of Courtenay waived more than $20,000 in fees for the project.
“Lilli House is an emergency shelter for women and children who are fleeing violence, and it is intended to be short term, like 30 days,” said Ney. “(Until now) there has been no place for women to move on from Lilli House that is affordable, that is safe… this is going to fill a great need.”
Ney said her work is not done.
“Oh, I have other things up my sleeve,” she said. “Keep in mind, this is still temporary. So the next step is to secure more permanent affordable housing, because even having this for six to 18 months, there’s still that stress of ‘what’s next’ and being able to afford what’s next,” she said. “Our current market is not even affordable for many of us who are working, so it’s a long journey toward affordable housing. But buildings like this are a good start toward that.”