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Near-complete affordable housing development in Mission rejected by province

Funding request for non-profit to manage building turned down; price could change to market rates
A non-profit’s funding application to manage 92 units of nearly-completed affordable housing on 33230 2nd Avenue in Mission was declined by BC Housing. /Dillon White Photo

An application to bring 92 new units of affordable housing to Mission’s tallest building was recently declined by BC Housing.

Apex Western Homes CEO Raymond Vesely developed the 11-storey building on 33230 2nd Avenue to bring affordable housing to Mission’s downtown. In a month, it will be ready for people to move in.

“I’m really disappointed at all this rhetoric about trying to get affordable homes for people. Well, I did my part,” Vesely said.

Apex intended for a non-profit to own the property and partnered with More Than A Roof on an application to BC Housing in October under the Community Housing Fund. More Than A Roof is a non-profit housing provider that develops and manages housing for low to moderate income seniors, families and individuals.

The grant application included 10 storeys of affordable housing with rates ranging from 20 per cent below market to 50 per cent below market. The bottom floor would contain a shared kitchen, laundromat and bases for social enterprises.

However, there were some challenges with the application. Vesely says the building didn’t meet new code requirements that were implemented since the development process began.

“The biggest one being they don’t want gas in the building and I have a gas boiler and a gas air exchanger. They want 100 per cent electricity with CO2 emissions,” Vesely said.

In a statement, BC Housing said it recognizes the urgent need to create more affordable rental options for people in Mission. An independent review and scoring procedure was conducted to ensure Community Housing Fund decisions were made consistently and transparently.

“The More Than a Roof submission, although strong, did not rank high enough in the CHF scoring procedure and within the funding allocation. We encourage all proponents to request a debriefing with BC Housing to discuss their proposal and to see if there are other programs available to move the project forward,” BC Housing said.

Vesely understands the strike against the application but thought the building’s close proximity to the finish line would be an advantage.

“I thought by far the fact that it’s ready for people to move in right away, would far outweigh the lack of meeting the current code,” he said.

The Apex CEO says he’s trying desperately to get the building into the hands of a non-profit – preferably More Than A Roof — in the coming weeks. But if a non-profit can’t take over the property, he’ll have to offer the units for rent at the market rate.

“I can’t sustain it at affordable. There’s no way with these interest rates — it’s unrealistic. But I have to do market,” he said.

The next call for BC Housing funding under the Community Housing Fund is expected in late 2024 or early 2025.

“In between funding calls, proponents can also apply for project development funding to advance their projects and proposals,” BC Housing said.

Council entered a housing agreement with the property in May 2021 that stipulates the units would be 100 per cent affordable and managed by one entity in the form of a property management company or an affordable housing provider.

“Let me just say this is a gigantic opportunity missed if it doesn’t happen because it won’t be very long before the developer cannot make it fly,” Mission Mayor Paul Horn said.

The mayor says the city previously had conversations with Premier David Eby and housing minister Ravi Kahlon about the project. If a non-profit isn’t attached soon, council will have to take a look at allowing the units to be available at market rate, according to Horn.

At Tuesday’s (April 2) meeting, council demonstrated an urge to apply political pressure to see the project come to fruition.

“For the province to turn down a purpose-built building that is ready to go in today’s dollars versus five-years-from-now dollars is absolutely asinine,” Coun. Mark Davies said. “It just staggers me and it leaves me wondering why. I mean, both the federal and provincial government are throwing billions of dollars into housing projects and this one is sitting here waiting for them to simply take the keys.”

Horn says it’s difficult to understand how the province can say it’s advancing affordable housing while non-profits and developers face hurdles at the same time.

“It’s not very often that it is literally this obvious, but this one is,” Horn said.

Going forward, Horn says the affordable housing project on 2nd Avenue is priority number one.

“It’s incredibly difficult to imagine how we might encourage developers to work with us to develop housing projects of this nature when this particular person came forward with an absolutely incredible social conscience in the work that they did and at the end of the day, we’re getting nowhere,” he said.

Previously, Vesely partnered with a non-profit to bring 70 units of affordable housing to Mission near the Cedar Valley Connector.

“From that relationship, I thought, well, this is great. Why don’t we work together on trying to put this together for more affordable homes for the non-profit? So we designed that building and bought that lot with them in mind,” Vesely said.

After the pandemic, the previous non-profit’s application was denied to receive funding to buy the 2nd Avenue property. Vesely moved forward, thinking another non-profit would get the funding to purchase the building.

“This is a need that needs to be done,” Vesely said,

Vesely is still trying to get the building into a non-profit’s hands within the next month. However, he would be hesitant to take on another affordable housing project after the challenges with the current one.

READ MORE: Community laundromat, affordable housing supported by Mission council

Dillon White

About the Author: Dillon White

I joined the Mission Record in November of 2022 after moving to B.C. from Nova Scotia earlier in the year.
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