An artistic rendering of a proposed affordable housing community in Tofino that took a massive step forward last week as BC Housing announced a roughly $3.6 million grant for the project. (Tofino council agenda image)

An artistic rendering of a proposed affordable housing community in Tofino that took a massive step forward last week as BC Housing announced a roughly $3.6 million grant for the project. (Tofino council agenda image)

Tofino receives $3.6M for affordable housing project

Partnership awarded by provincial government’s Building BC: Community Housing Fund.

A new apartment building is coming to Tofino.

The district has received an approximately $3.6 million grant from the provincial government’s Building BC: Community Housing Fund to put towards the first phase of its affordable housing project at 351 Arnet Road.

The project is being put together through a partnership between the Tofino Housing Corporation and Catalyst Community Developments and aims to create 72 affordable rental units split between two apartment buildings as well as three duplex townhouses.

The first phase is a 35-unit apartment building, which is expected to cost roughly $10 million. The recently received $3.6 million grant is supplementing other funding that has come in from the sale of two district-owned apartment units, grants from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation as well as funding from Municipal, Regional and District Taxes collected by local tourist accommodations.

READ MORE: District of Tofino agrees to sell apartment to help pay for affordable housing project

“About 50 per cent of the $10 million cost ends up being a take-out loan and roughly 50 per cent ends up being from BC Housing as well as the money we’ve put in,” Tofino Housing Corporation executive director Ian Scott told the Westerly News.

With the grant officially received, construction on the new building is expected to begin in the spring of 2021 and take roughly 16 months to complete.

“Rising housing costs have made it difficult for people in our community to get ahead. I’m proud to be a part of a strong NDP government committed to tackling the housing crisis,” said Mid Island-Pacific Rim MLA Josie Osborne. “These new homes represent much needed rental stock and will provide families, independent seniors and people with disabilities an affordable place to live.”

The apartments will be rented out based on a housing agreement and BC Housing’s grant requirements stipulate that 50 per cent must be rented to households with annual incomes under $64,000, 30 per cent to households with annual incomes up to $74,000 and 20 per cent to “heavily subsidized” households, like those on income or disability assistance.

Scott said Tofino’s Arnet Road project has been “decades in the making” and the confidence expressed through BC Housing’s recent grant to move ahead with the first phase is a testament to the hard work done by the community to date.

“We’re now at the point where we have a very clear path to when we start construction and when we get to occupancy,” he said. “It’s super exciting for the Housing Corporation and for the community and is really the result of a lot of work done by many people over many years to get to this point. I know there’s some frustration on the speed of how this plays out sometimes in the community, but these things do take time and it is a complicated process that we’ve tried to get right.”

READ MORE: Tofino mayor says private market won’t solve housing woes

He added the new apartment building marks an important step towards easing Tofino’s housing crunch, but is a long way off from being a silver bullet.

“The need for both rental housing within a large spectrum of rental rates is really quite significant. Individuals report leaving Tofino because they can’t find housing and employers report losing employees or challenges attracting employees,” he said. “This is an important first step, but I’m expecting, based on the data we’ve seen and based on the experience in other communities that are tourism oriented like Tofino where it’s a small town with a limited land base, that this is the beginning of a multi-year, probably multi decade, effort to really get a handle on the housing situation in Tofino.”

Scott said the THC plans to apply for funding from the same Community Housing Fund for the project’s second apartment building in January and is confident that application will be successful as well, though he noted the province has many formidable projects to consider.

“We have a really well developed project plan, we have a site that’s been rezoned, we have good financial support from the Tofino Housing Corporation, Catalyst as well as the district of Tofino,” he said. “We’re in excellent shape; the only reason we might not get funded is the fact that there is so much need across the province.”

The Community Housing Fund is part of the provincial government’s commitment to invest $7 billion in housing over 10 years and Tofino’s $3.5 million is one of 16 grants that were announced on Dec. 2.

“These projects will mean new, affordable homes for a wide range of people – from seniors on fixed incomes to growing families and people with disabilities,” said Attorney General and Minister Responsible for Housing David Eby in the Dec. 2 announcement. “There’s a lot more to do, and I look forward to working with the non-profit housing sector and all our partners to continue delivering the homes people need.”

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READ MORE: Tofino council approves controversial rezoning that paves way for affordable housing project

READ MORE: Tofino housing project criticized at public hearing

READ MORE: Housing proposal highlights capacity concerns in Tofino

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