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First Nations group breaks ground on rental building in Langford

A new affordable housing complex is rising in Langford, adding options for First Nations families and others in need. Construction is underway at 550 Goldstream Ave.
When completed, the project on Goldstream Avenue will provide 30 two-bedroom and six three-bedroom units.

A new affordable housing complex is rising in Langford, adding options for First Nations families and others in need.

Construction is underway at 550 Goldstream Ave., across from the Royal Colwood Golf Club, and is expected to be completed by February 2016.

The property, owned jointly by M’akola Housing Society and M’akola Development Services, will provide 36 rental units at affordable rates.

But there are more than 1,000 families in Greater Victoria on M’akola’s wait-list for housing, CEO Kevin Albers said.

“It’s critical to be able to house working families,” Albers said. “This is an area of the capital region where people choose to live, so we really need to provide some in-housing options and that includes some in the range of affordability.”

The project will provide 30 two-bedroom and six three-bedroom units.

The monthly rent will range from the provincially determined family shelter rate, which Albers said is $540 for a two-bedroom, up to between 10 and 15 per cent below market value after the project is completed in 2016. Five units will also be “rent-geared-to-income,” which means families will be charged 30 per cent of their household income.

The project will be a mixed-use building, with commercial space on the ground floor.

“That actually helps cross-subsidize the units above, because there’s no ongoing government support,” Albers said.

Once the development is complete, both M’akola Development Services and M’akola Housing Society will move their provincial headquarters into the commercial component.

There are four other M’akola housing projects in Langford, bringing the total number of its rental units up to 148 in the city.

“We’re not the only affordable housing provider in the City of Langford. There’s a lot of market housing being built as well, which is absolutely needed,” Albers said.

Langford Mayor Stew Young said the development helps fill a need for more affordable housing in the city.

The City of Langford is providing $263,600 in municipal grants and tax breaks.

“We want young families and a diverse community and we want to include everybody,” he said.

The federal and provincial governments have committed a combined $4.9 million through the Affordable Rental Housing initiative for the project.

“Our government is committed to supporting Canadian families in communities, but it takes the efforts of many and partnerships at all levels to create real results,” said John Duncan, minister of state and MP for Vancouver Island North.

The B.C. government will provide an additional $6.3 million in construction finances.

Minister Responsible for Housing Rich Coleman said the development is relatively rare for its size, but was possible through strong partnerships.

“It’s somewhat unique in our marketplace today, we don’t do a lot of these,” Coleman said.

The Aboriginal Housing Management Association will provide an annual operating subsidy of $43,868.

M’akola Development Services will provide about $1.9 million in equity.

The development sits on the traditional territory of seven Coast Salish nations. Representatives from six of the seven were present at an event Tuesday announcing the project.

Songhees elder Elmer George, Esquimalt elder Maryanne Thomas and Tsartlip elder Alec Sam gave a blessing.

Sam said there are no M’akola projects in his community, but the Tsartlip are trying to apply for funding for affordable housing projects through banks.

Tsartlip Coun. Simon Smith said three- to four-bedroom suites would be more appropriate for those families that do need housing.

M’akola Group of Societies is the largest aboriginal housing provider in B.C. It hosts nearly 5,000 family members in more than 1,500 homes across the province.

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