Affordable housing on fast track at Dockside Green development

The developers of Dockside Green plan to step up the pace of construction on the $350-million project’s affordable housing component.

In a recent update of the Dockside Green housing affordability strategy, VanCity Credit Union community enterprises director Detlef Beck said completion dates have been moved up to combat rising construction costs.

“Construction costs are rising one to two per cent per month,” Beck said Beck, whose company is a partner in the project alongside Windmill Developments.

Beck said 58 of the 75 units planned for the project should be ready for occupancy by the spring of 2008, including nine that have been incorporated into the two phases already under construction and a soon-to-be-built 49-unit building catering entirely to low-income families.

Council also heard from officials with the Capital Region Housing Corporation, which will purchase the stand-alone affordable housing buildings and manage the units.

CRHC chair Dave Ganong said the compressed schedule will help keep the units as affordable as possible.

“We would rather be building in 2007 dollars than 2009 dollars,” Ganong said.

The affordable units will cater to families in the $35,000 -$47,000 income range.

Last April, Mayor Alan Lowe complained that targeting people in that salary range will put the subsidized units out of reach of those who need them most. But at a recent committee-of-the-whole meeting, Lowe praised the strategy.

“I am pleased that 49 of the units will be rentals for families,” he said.

Coun. Pam Madoff also offered support for the plan, saying, “Dockside keeps working to deliver what it said it would.”

The original agreement required the developers to include 11 per cent affordable housing. But in September 2005, Windmill told council that, due to rising construction costs, adhering to the 11 per cent threshold would mean building dozens of small bachelor and one-bedroom suites. The company came back to council last spring with a revised plan calling for fewer units with more square footage to accommodate families.

Windmill and VanCity have already contributed $3 million toward the affordable housing component. The firms plan to put another $2.2 million into the rental units.

In addition, the CRHC will be tasked with raising $4 million in equity, money that will reduce the mortgage on the property and allow the corporation to charge-below market rents.

“This will allow the project to operate without any ongoing subsidies,” said CRHC executive director Henry Kamphof. “That’s the beauty of this project.”

Beck said that Kamphof is “gifted” at finding sources of money to fund affordable housing projects. Kamphof assured council that “we’ll be finding the capital from beneath the mattresses of whatever sources we can find.”

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