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Affordable housing projects planned for Sooke badly needed, says mayor

Two affordable-housing projects planned for Sooke are badly needed in an area that has been underserved when it comes to multi-family buildings, says Mayor Maja Tait.
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Artist’s rendering of the proposed housing project at 2170 Charters Rd. in Sooke. Credit: DHK Architects

Two affordable-housing projects planned for Sooke are badly needed in an area that has been underserved when it comes to multi-family buildings, says Mayor Maja Tait.

Construction is expected to start this month on a 75-unit purpose-built affordable rental project on Charters Road in Sooke, while renovations will be ongoing at the Hope Centre to establish a 33-unit supportive-housing centre.

The affordable rental building will be geared to low-income individuals, seniors and families, while the supportive-housing project will target the growing homeless population in Sooke.

Tait noted the price of real estate in Sooke, as in the rest of the south Island, is soaring, and many people have been priced out of the market, with few rental alternatives available.

“There is a real need for affordable rental in this area,” she said. “It’s really welcome to provide safe places for individuals and families.”

The rental building, a partnership of the province, M’akola Housing Society, the federal government and the Capital Regional District, is expected to open in 2022.

Colin Plant, chairman of the Capital Regional District, said there is an urgent need for more affordable rental housing in the region. As part of the regional Housing First program, the Charters project will be affordable for low- and middle-income people, while supportive housing will ensure those in greatest need have access to safe, secure housing, he said.

Tait said transformation of the Hope Centre into supportive housing with 33 living units, full support and outreach workers will be a major boost for those at risk of homelessness.

Last fall, Tait told the CRD’s housing committee that Sooke was struggling to handle its homeless population, with many living rough in parks and forests when the area’s temporary 20-bed shelter — in a former restaurant – is at capacity.

“Sooke has never had even an extreme emergency shelter for the homeless or those at risk,” she said in an interview Wednesday. “For decades, we have had folks living in really rough conditions.”

B.C. Housing purchased the Hope Centre from M’akola and the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul, Vancouver Island.

The building, which offers rental homes for people with low incomes, will gradually be renovated to establish the 33 rooms, a service hub with six shelter beds, programming space for training and outreach services and a commercial kitchen.

Current residents will be able to stay if they wish, while M’akola will work with those who want to transition to other housing options.

The Sooke Shelter society will operate the new building with staff on site 24/7 to provide support services to residents, including life-skills training, mentorship and other programming.

“Supportive housing has been a piece that has been missing,” said Tait, adding when the projects are done, the municipality will take another look at what’s still needed in terms of housing in Sooke.

Premier John Horgan said the province will continue to work with partners like M’akola Housing Society to build more homes people can afford throughout B.C.

“After so many years, these new homes will mean more people and families in Sooke have the affordable housing and support they need,” he said. “We’re making progress, but these are still big challenges for people.”

aduffy@timescolonist.com